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Holiday Fire Safety Tips

Be safe this holiday season.

Thanks to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue for the following information:

The holidays are a time for family gatherings, friends dropping by, and food, fun and festivities!  But it is also the prime time for residential fires.  More fires occur in homes during the holidays than any other time of year.

Every year there is a marked increase in the number of fires and fire fatalities during the holiday season.  Decorative lights, candles, parties where people drink and smoke, and especially the onset of the heating season all increase the likelihood of fires and injuries. 

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue wants everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season, and is providing these simple safety guidelines to residents.

Christmas Trees / Holiday Lights

Christmas tree fires are rare, but have unusually deadly consequences, more than eight times higher than any other structure fire.

  • When choosing a Christmas tree look for a fresh one that is not brown or shedding its needles.  Cut the trunk at an angle and secure it in a deep, non-tip stand.  And set it up away from exits, fire places and heat sources.
  • Water the Christmas tree daily and dispose of it when it begins dropping needles.  Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.
  • The majority of Christmas tree fires were caused by lights due to short circuiting or ground fault.  So check light strands for fraying or cracks in the wires. If you’re not sure, discard them and buy new.
  • When decorating with lights, use tree-approved lights.  Look for the laboratory testing label when purchasing.  Some are designed for indoors or outdoors, but not both.
  • Be certain to unplug the lights when leaving home or going to bed, and avoid putting too many strings together by following the manufacturers’ instructions.

Fireplaces/Space Heaters

There’s nothing cozier than a fire on a cold night.  But two out of every three fires that are home-heating related, and five of every six related deaths, were attributed to space heating equipment. 

  • Space heaters need space.  Keep space heaters at least three feet away from furniture, bedding, clothing, walls and other items that can burn. 
  • Have your chimney inspected by a professional at least once a year and cleaned if necessary.  Always use a fire screen, and burn only materials appropriate for a fireplace.
  • Never burn trash or paper in a fireplace; burning paper can float up a chimney and onto your roof or into your yard.

Candles

Candles bring a warm glow to the holidays, but 90 percent of all residential fires during the month of December can be attributed to candles. 

  • Never leave a lit candle unattended; extinguish it before leaving a room or going to sleep.
  • Keep candles away from items that can catch fire, such as curtains, Christmas trees, and flammable decorations.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over easily, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Monitor children closely when they are in a room with lit candles.
  • Trim wicks to ¼ inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within two inches of the holder.
  • Don’t allow teenagers and kids to keep candles in their bedrooms.

Alcohol & Holiday Parties

Hillsborough County has an excessive number of fire fatalities involving adults under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

  • Never smoke when you’re tired, sleepy or when you’ve been drinking
  • After having guests in your home, check cushions and furniture for smoldering cigarette butts
  • Wet the contents of ashtrays before emptying them
  • Make sure all candles and open flames are extinguished and lights are unplugged.
  • Inform your family and overnight visitors about their means of escape in case of fire where the exits are located
  • Test smoke alarms by pushing and holding the button

Children

During this time of year, anyone can easily be distracted by all the festivities of the season.

  • Make your stove area a “Kid-Free Zone” to prevent scalding injuries to little ones. 
  • Monitor children closely around the open flames from candles or fireplaces and space heaters.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach by locking them up where little hands won’t be able to start big fires!

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