As we approach the New Year, Michigan State Fire Marshal Ronald R. Farr reminds us to take a minute to ensure we are preparing and decorating safely during the remainder of the holidays. Farr points out that this can be a dangerous time of year if caution is not exercised with Christmas trees, holiday lighting, candles and cooking.
In 2009, there were 140 candle-related fires reported in Michigan, resulting in 11 injuries and one death, and more than $43.7 million in property loss. Christmas trees and holiday decorations were involved in 14 reported fires, resulting in one injury and more than $860,000 thousand in property loss and damage.
According to Farr, the risks for a fire in the home increase significantly during this time of year for a number of reasons. Increased cooking, unattended candles and decorations and careless use of smoking materials make this a dangerous time for fires in the home. However, if people practice fire safe behaviors and use a little common sense, home fires can be prevented.
Here are some tips from the State Fire Marshal’s office that you can share with your residents in your local newsletter:
- Have at least one working smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
- Test your smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Have an escape plan showing two ways out of every room with a designated meeting place outside and practice it with your entire family.
- Frequently water your Christmas tree and keep the tree away from heat sources and exits.
- Keep burning candles away from decorations and other materials that can catch fire. Do not leave children unattended in a room with lighted candles. Remember to keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
- When decorating with lights, purchase only those labeled by a testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Check for frayed or damaged cords and replace them. Don’t overload electric outlets and always unplug all decorative lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Never leave the stove unattended while cooking. Keep cooking areas clean, wear clothes with tight-fitting sleeves, and turn pot handles inward on the stove and out of children’s reach.
- Special care should be taken around fireplaces during this season. Make sure the flue is open before starting a fire. Never burn wrappings or a Christmas tree in the fireplace.
- When hosting holiday parties, provide guests who smoke with large, deep ashtrays. After the party, remember to check around furniture and in trash cans for smoldering cigarettes.
- Always keep a fire extinguisher handy.