Fire Safety Tips For The Holiday Season

By Don McCue, Reverse Mortgage Plus
(with some additions from SingleLadyEstates)

Each year there's an average of 358,000 house fires, resulting in seven deaths every day, according to the National Fire Protection Association. There is always a spike during the holiday season. Holidays come with social gatherings, home cooking and elaborate decorative displays – so be sure to practice fire safety during this time!

How can you avoid fire hazards this holiday season? Check out the tips below!

1. Cook responsibly.

Cooking is responsible for 49% of house fires this time of year. Keep flammable items (e.g., grocery bags) clear of stoves, ovens and fryers, and never leave cooking unattended. 

Fully thaw frozen turkey before placing it in a deep fryer to reduce the likelihood of oil spillage and fire. Clean up greasy spills immediately, and learn how to properly extinguish grease fires.

2. Take care when displaying holiday trees.

Select freshly cut trees that still have their natural moisture. Older, drier trees, usually identifiable by the excess shedding of needles, are more susceptible to fire. Display holiday trees safely away from heat sources, and check regularly to be sure your tree has enough water to prevent drying.

3. Check decorative lights for damage.

Inspect cords for frays, cracks and loose connections that could pose a safety hazard and discard any damaged electrical decorations if necessary. Never leave decorative lights on unattended, and avoid daisy-chaining multiple extensions and overloading wall sockets. 

4. Practice candle safety.

Candles start over an average of 1,600 residential structure fires during the holidays. Burning candles should be placed well away from flammable items, including holiday trees, curtains and furniture — 12 to 36 inches of clearance on all sides is ideal. Always display candles on nonflammable surfaces and extinguish flames before leaving the room.

5. Keep at least one fire extinguisher on hand.

Fire extinguishers should be:

  • Easily accessible by all members of the household.
  • Stored near fire-prone areas (e.g., kitchens) for quick retrieval. 
  • Inspected regularly to ensure proper operation. 

If you live in a multi-level home, be sure to have a fire extinguisher on each level.

And just some reminder tips for those basic steps we all know and need to be reminded about to ensure they are top of mind:

  • Be sure smoke alarms are installed and working. Smoke alarms should be on every level of your home, including the basement (if you have one!).
  • Make sure you have a fire escape plan and that it's still applicable. There should be at least two unobstructed exits, including windows, from every room. 
  • Be sure to keep your matches and lighters secure and away from kids.
  • If you encounter smoke while escaping from a fire, crawl low under the smoke. 
  • If you're clothes catch fire – stop, drop and roll. Cool any burn with water (not ice) and call for help.

For more general safety tips, check out our podcast with LAPD Senior Lead Office Sean Dinse.

Have a safe holiday season!