In the lead up to the holidays, our homes typically look more cosy and inviting than usual. All the traditions of the Christmas season encourage us to decorate our homes with beautiful lights, trees, and ornaments. After a hard day at work, it’s wonderful to park the car in the driveway and be enveloped by the warmth and joy of this wonderful season.
Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and, with all the lovely distractions, safety and precaution can easily slip from being top of our thoughts. But those very decorations that bring so much joy, also plunge families every year into a nightmare. Christmas tree fire, and fires caused by other Christmas decorations, are a lot more common than you may have ever imagined.
With the unthinkable in mind, here are some statistics that highlight the potential danger of filling your house with decorations:
Christmas Tree Fire Stats:
- Christmas trees are the reason for approximately 200 fires every year in the United States. During a 4 years period from 2011 and 2015), this average resulted in 6 deaths and16 injuries. Not to mention millions of dollars in property damage.
- 40% of Christmas tree fires are caused by lights or electricity in the vicinity of the tree.
- If a heat source is kept close to your Christmas tree, you could be putting you or your family in unnecessary danger. This accounts for over one quarter of accidental Christmas tree fires.
- More than one third of the Christmas tree fires started in either the living room, family room, or den. This statistic makes sense because these are the most common places for the main Christmas tree. (It doesn’t mean that your tree is automatically safer if you put it in a different room!)
- Christmas tree fires aren’t the only seasonal fires that occur. In fact, more fires are caused by decorations than trees themselves. Decorations that center around an electrical aspect are more likely to cause a fire than a tree. It is usually the lights on the tree or an electrical object or heat source near the tree that are responsible for a Christmas tree fire.
- During the Christmas season, you need to be very careful about where you place candles. Candles that are placed too close to Christmas decorations or flammable objects cause over a third of home decoration structure fires.
- The top three days for fires started in the home because of candles are Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Make sure you practice candle safety in your home at all times, of course. But be particularly wary during the winter season when candlelight augments a cosy atmosphere in the home.
- Another thing to look out for with regards to Christmas tree fires and fires in general is your cooking equipment. Make sure that you don’t have any cooking equipment in close vicinity to any Christmas decorations that are highly flammable. This is because cooking equipment is involved in nearly one fifth of home decoration fires every year.
After considering the Christmas tree fire and decoration fire statistics, it’s clear that seasonal fires are much more than a rare anomaly. In order to protect you and your loved ones this Christmas, here are some valuable safety tips you should follow:
- Artificial trees are generally thought to be safer than real ones. This is because real trees spread fire more quickly when ignited. The needles in a real tree can also present other safety concerns around small children and animals.
- However, it must be emphasized that the real key to fire safety is not the type of tree you buy. Sure, a real tree will go up in flames more quickly, but it’s more important to think about what actually causes the Christmas tree fire! It’s not as if you sit around and test the reaction times of different materials. So, your focus with regards to safety and the prevention of a Christmas tree fire will be on the electric or heat source nearby.
- If you must have a live Christmas tree, keep it well watered and dispose of it after 4 weeks. This ensures that should there be a fire hazard nearby, your live tree will be less likely to cause a substantial Christmas tree fire.
- For all homeowners, no matter what type of tree you have or are thinking of buying, check the sockets and wires on your Christmas tree lights. And keep candles as far away as possible from flammable materials for your safety this winter.
- Every home should be fitted with approved smoke detectors. Be aware that 2 kinds are recommended: standard smoke detectors are acceptable in bedrooms, but they should be used in conjunction with combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in hallways (open areas) and kitchens. You should test them all regularly, and replace batteries often.
- You might also consider a home fire extinguisher. They save lives and property when kept accessible and used properly. Experts recommend that homeowners purchase a multipurpose unit rated at 3A:40-B:C as a first choice. (Click here to read an explanation of the numbers.)
For more information about protecting your home and loved ones, download the free community tool kits provided by the National Fire Protection Association.
You can also contact your local chapter of the Red Cross. They provide lots of resources as part of their Home Fire Campaign, and in many places will even come out and check your home preparedness and recommend any additional steps you should take.
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