NORTH LIBERTY– For most of us, the holiday season represents a time for family festivities and good cheer. What few of us consider is that the holiday season is a time when there is an increased risk of home fires. According to North Liberty Fire Department, many households engage in holiday activities that serve as some of the leading causes of U.S. home fires, including cooking. Christmas trees, candle usage and holiday decorations also significantly contribute to the seasonal causes of home fires. Add to that the hectic nature of the holidays, when people are trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time, and the chance for home fires grows even further.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” said Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Hardin of the North liberty Fire Department. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”
• Cooking fires account for 41 percent of home structure fires, followed by heating fires at 28 percent.
• On average, each Holiday Season (late Nov to early Jan) results in 11,600 fires requiring a fire deptartment response.
• Of the 11,600 fires, there is an average of 250 injuries and 40 fatalities
Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody. “By taking some preventative steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented,” said Assistant Chief Bryan Hardin.
With unattended cooking as the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, Hardin said to stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time. If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking. The North Liberty Fire Department also suggests creating a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
Candles are widely used in homes throughout the winter. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) statistics show almost half of all home decoration fires are started by candles. The North Liberty Fire Department encourages residents to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid using candles in the bedroom, where one third of U.S. candle fires begin. Lastly, never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.
According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments annually responded to an annual average of 230 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees in 2006-2010. One of every three of them is caused by electrical problems, and one in five resulted from a heat source that’s too close to the tree. Now that it’s time to put away the decorations, the North Liberty Fire Department offers the following advice:
• After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
• Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
By following these fire prevention tips and measure, you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home, and enjoy a safe holiday season.
“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” said Hardin. “By taking simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards, and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.”