by Barbara Rice, Fire Marshal, Casa Grande Fire Department
The weather is cooling off and here in Casa Grande, we are gearing up for the holidays. Not only are we preparing for the holiday season, we are enjoying our amazing weather. School is in session and there are endless events to enjoy. This is also the time of year that more home fires occur. We are busier, rushed, distracted and even tired. All of us with the City of Casa Grande Fire Department want everyone to have a joyous holiday season and want to share some safety tips to help ensure you enjoy a safe holiday season. By following some simple, preventative measures which involve cooking, Christmas trees, candles and holiday decorations used during the months of November through January, you can reduce the likelihood of a fire in your home.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) an average of 162,400 fires caused by cooking occur every year, claiming 430 lives. That is almost half of all home fires reported. Thanksgiving sees more than three times the daily average of home cooking fires with more than 1,300 cooking fires on that day alone. The leading cause of cooking fires is unattended cooking. Frying seems to be the major type of cooking where fires occur. Combustible materials, such as potholders left too close to the cooking heat source, is another major source of fires during cooking. With unattended cooking as the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, we urge you to stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food. Since most cooking fires involve the stovetop, 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. Be sure to check your cooking regularly and use a timer as a reminder. Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Don’t use water, flour or baking soda to extinguish the fire since these may worsen the fire. If a fire occurs in the oven, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Now that we’ve talked turkey about cooking fires; did you know approximately 210 home fires are caused by Christmas trees every year? If you use an artificial tree during the holiday season, it is still susceptible to fire since one-third of all Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems in lights, wiring or other equipment. One in four Christmas tree fires is due to a heat source that’s too close to the tree. While Christmas tree fires are not common, they are very intense and fast burning. If you use an artificial tree be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant. Nothing smells like a fresh-cut Christmas tree but if you choose to enjoy one during the holiday season, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched when you buy it. Cut 2” from the base of the trunk and keep the water reservoir in the stand full every single day. Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a serious fire danger. Regardless of what type of tree you use, make sure you don’t place it in front of an exit and keep it a minimum three feet from any heat source. Replace any lights with broken cords or loose bulb connections and make sure they have a label showing they were tested by a recognized laboratory such as UL. Always turn off the lights before leaving home or going to bed and NEVER use candles to decorate the tree. Candles are responsible for 8% of all Christmas tree fires.
Candles are widely used in homes throughout the holidays, and December is the peak month for home candle fires. More than half of all candle fires start because they are too close to things that could catch on fire. Flameless candles look and smell like real candles and some come with timers or remote controls to adjust their glow. But if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12” away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid using candles in the bedroom or other areas where people may fall asleep and never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.
Following these safety tips will help everyone have a joyous and safe holiday season by keeping your home fire-safe.