It may be lucky in gambling but it seems seven isn’t such a lucky number when it comes to the holidays. Did you know that line-voltage holiday or decorative lights start an average of 170 home structure fires each year? According to the National Fire Protection Association, these fires cause approximately 7 deaths, 17 injuries, and $7.9 million in property damage annually. Christmas should be a time for celebration, not a time to worry about the dangers associated with your decorations. Here’s some fire hazards you should identity and a few safety precautions you can take to protect yourself and your family.
- For many families, picking the right Christmas tree is an annual tradition. When selecting a tree, make sure the tree appears fresh with green needles and the branches are not easy to pull from the tree.
- It’s recommended to cut an additional two inches off the trunk and keep it watered at all times. There have been tests that report a Christmas tree can ignite and completely burn in less than two minutes, but as this video shows, it can be less than 45 seconds.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for a fire resistant label, usually an Underwriters Laboratory “Underwriters Tested” label.
- Place your tree at least three feet from any heat source including fireplaces, radiators, wood burning stoves, and space heaters.
- Do not leave the tree up for an extended period after the holidays. Fire safety professionals recommend you not leave it up any longer than two weeks and discard it immediately. A dried-out tree is highly flammable and can still cause major damage when sitting. Check with your local community for a recycling program or other disposal options.
While holiday lights help make the season beautiful, they also can create fire safety hazards. Whether hung around the house or on a Christmas tree, certain precautions must be taken with these decorations:
- Only use lights tested and rated by Underwriters Laboratories (look for the UL label).
- Check holiday lights for frayed wires or excessive wear, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Discard any damaged light sets.
- Follow manufacturer guidelines, including use in the proper environment (indoor vs. outdoor).
- Don’t connect more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
- Use no more than three standard-size light sets per single extension cord.
- Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping, but do not run cords under rugs.
- Be careful when hanging lights. Use insulated holders instead of tacks, staples, or nails.
- Never use lit candles to decorate a tree. Place any candles well away from tree branches.
- Avoid hanging lights near any potential fire hazard, such as loose paper or other flammable materials.
- Turn off all lights before you go to bed or leave the house.
- Take lights down after the holidays. These lights are meant for temporary use only.
- Never use them on a tree.
- Make sure they are in stable candle holders.
- Place them where they cannot easily be knocked over.
- Never leave them unattended.
- Always put them out before going to bed.
Also, make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are operating properly.
My final piece of advice, if you have ever watched the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, by all means AVOID anything attempted by Clark Griswold! Have a safe and happy holiday!
Tips courtesy of the National Safety Council and National Fire Protection Association.