The holiday season is upon us, and though this is meant to be a time of great joy, for many it becomes a time of loss. One major cause of home fires during this time of year is Christmas decorations. Candles and twinkle lights are pretty until they spark and create destructive fires. To keep your Christmas joyful, consider these decoration dangers and tips to avoid them:
Candles, Candles, Candles
When the NFPA issues reports concerning home fires, candles always top of the list of offenders. Candles are beautiful additions to the home, but often blend in and are forgotten after they are lit. Also, because many people arrange their décor around unlit candles, they do not consider the proximity of flammable materials. This leads to live flames burning directly below flowers, fabric, or paper—such as cards, wreaths, or poinsettias. According to a study on Home Decoration fires conducted by the NFPA, over half of the home fires in December were started by candles. This is significantly higher than November and January, during which candles were responsible for a third of the home fires. The study also found that the amount of fires beginning in the dining room doubled in December, in contrast to the rest of the year, and that a quarter of the fires started in the family room.
The moral of the story? Think carefully when adding candles to your holiday display. It is always safest for candles to be enclosed in glass containers. Be aware of what is surrounding your candles when lighting them, and do not burn them in rooms that are not occupied. Votive candles, when enclosed in glass, are more safe than other candles, because they have a short life span—if forgotten they will extinguish faster. Tall candles often used for table decorations must be carefully monitored and set up in a securely to prevent them tumbling and igniting the table. Enclosed votives are a safer alternative.
Colored, white, or twinkling, Christmas lights add a special touch to many homes during the holiday season. Whether displayed on front porches or wrapped around trees, they require much care in order to be enjoyed safely. When using electrical equipment outdoors, it is important to make sure the outlets and wires are in dry, clear spaces that stay sheltered from the elements. Of course, the wiring surrounding the actual lights will be exposed, but make sure the electrical outlet is not only equipped to handle the amount of electricity your lights are producing, but is either covered or located in a dry space, such as the garage or front porch. Make sure you buy lights specifically UL listed for the outdoors, and marked for multipurpose or outdoor use on the packaging. Lights that are not designed to withstand rain or ice will quickly break and can short-circuit, which could create hazardous sparks.
When lighting your Christmas tree, correct wiring is extremely important. In a separate study specifically examining Christmas tree fires, the NFPA found that “electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in two of every five (40%) home Christmas tree fires.” 18% of those fires were simply from the decorative lights themselves. Turn off your tree’s lights when leaving the house or going to bed, and make sure to water your tree daily to keep it healthy. A dried out, dead tree has been proven to be at a significantly higher risk of catching fire than a healthy, watered tree.
Keeping these things in mind while adding light and warmth to your home for the holidays will help everyone stay safe, and be able to focus on the joy of the season. If you have any questions, you can always call your local Pye-Barker office, we are proud to protect our community!