Holiday season heightens risk of house fires
BCAA says heed safety tips to help protect your home and loved ones
(Burnaby, B.C.): Candles, trees and decorations add warmth to holiday celebrations, but if not handled properly, you can unknowingly create serious fire hazards around the house. During this holiday season, the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) urges you to take proper precautions to reduce the risk of a fire and protect your family and home from tragedy.
For BCAA, residential fire-related insurance claims increase during the holidays making December the second busiest month for fire-related home insurance claims next to July.
"While trying to set a festive mood, you may also be increasing the risk of a fire in your house," says Michele Buttle, BCAA Associate Vice President of Insurance. "Open flames from candles and fireplaces, holiday lights, and highly flammable items such as trees, ornaments and wrapping paper – they can all add to your fire risk if used improperly or carelessly. Plus, with the hurried pace of the season, it’s easy to become distracted around the house while cooking and entertaining."
To reduce the risk of a holiday fire, heed the following basic safety tips: never leave an open flame or hot stove unattended; and, before leaving home or going to sleep, always turn off holiday lights and extinguish candles and fireplaces. BCAA also recommends the following:
Trees and decorations
- Fresh or artificial, put the tree in a sturdy stand. Place trees out of the way of traffic and away from heat sources and exits. Water a fresh tree daily to prevent it from drying out and becoming increasingly flammable.
- If you purchase an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant. Choose holiday decorations made with flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
- Inside or out, only use lights that have been tested and approved for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. Ensure outdoor lights are certified for outdoor use. Never staple through light strings or extension cords.
- Check holiday lights for broken sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Dispose of damaged sets. Consider using newer lights that have thicker wiring and safety fuses.
- Keep lit candles away from: anything that could ignite such as trees, curtains and decorations; windows and drafts; locations where they can get knocked over.
- Never leave a child or pet unattended in a room with a candle. Keep candles, matches and lighters up high or locked away, and out of the reach of children.
- Be wary of novelty candles surrounded by flammable paint, paper or dried flowers. Place candles firmly in candle holders that are sturdy and are meant to hold hot wax.
- Avoid using plastic or wood candle holders which can easily melt or catch fire. Glass holders can get too hot and burn fingers, or even break. Metal candle holders are safer.
- Keep candle wicks trimmed to 1/4 inch, and extinguish candles when they’re within two inches of the holder.
- Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace as it can ignite suddenly and burn intensely, resulting in a flash fire. Never light a fireplace or wood stove with any combustible fluids.
- Use a metal spark screen that covers the entire fireplace opening to prevent sparks from igniting nearby flammable materials. Keep wrapped gifts and trees away from fireplaces.
- Store ashes outside in a covered metal container, well away from buildings, grass and bushes.
Holiday cooking and entertaining
- Keep an eye on the range or other cooking appliances when in use. Pay close attention not to accidentally place flammable objects such as oven mitts or dish rags on stove tops.
- If there are smokers around your home, provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays. Douse cigarette butts with water before discarding or flush them down the toilet.
BCAA also advises that at least one fire extinguisher be kept inside the home, smoke detector batteries are checked regularly and families practice home escape plans. Homeowners and renters are also encouraged to consult your insurance advisor to ensure your home and/or belongings are adequately covered in the unfortunate case of a fire.