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Holiday cheer brings fire risk

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 12:16 p.m. CST

The holiday season brings traditions, parties, shopping, entertaining – and potential danger, according to Steven Bryant of SERVPRO of DeKalb County.

The latest statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show the holidays are a high-risk time for home fires. Christmas trees are responsible for 240 home fires each year, and other holiday decorations are the cause of another 1,170 fires. Thanksgiving Day sees almost a threefold increase in cooking-related fires; cooking fires are almost twice as likely to happen on Christmas Day as on non-holidays.

“No one wants to think about the possibility of losing their home, and even more tragically, lives because of a fire during the holidays,” Bryant said. “But statistics show it’s important to be aware of the increased risk decorating, entertaining and cooking can cause during the holidays.”

Holiday decorating fires

• 33 percent of Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems; 13 percent involve decorative lights. Check wiring on lights for breaks and wear. Replace worn strings and don’t exceed manufacturer guidelines for connecting multiple strands of lights. Don’t leave tree lights plugged in when you are away from home or when you go to bed.

• Keep live trees watered to reduce the chance of a fire.

• Forty-five percent of all holiday fires involve candles; that number rises to 56 percent in December. Use flameless candles when possible. If you do use traditional candles, burn them in sturdy candle holders, well away from drapes and other flammable materials, and never leave them unattended or allow them to burn down lower than one inch.

• Forty-eight percent of all decoration fires start because the decoration is too close to a heat source. Keep all decorations away from heat sources like radiators, portable heaters and fireplaces.

Holiday cooking fires

• Supervise items on the stovetop. Fifty-eight percent of kitchen fires involve ranges; homes with electric cook tops have a higher risk of fire than homes with gas cook tops.

• Keep flammable items – potholders, packaging, wrapping, wooden utensils, loose clothing – away from the stovetop. Don’t let lack of sleep or alcohol consumption affect your ability to concentrate on preparing the meal.

“It only takes a moment’s distraction or carelessness to turn a holiday celebration into a catastrophe,” Bryant said.

“We hope these tips will be a reminder to area families to make fire prevention a priority in their holiday preparations, so they can spend the season enjoying family and friends, not dealing with the aftermath of a fire.”

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