Decking the halls of your home for holidays can be fun, but be safe. Each year fires during the holiday season injure about 2,600 individuals and cause more $930 million in damage. No matter how busy you are, take a little extra time to make sure that your holiday decorations don’t become a household hazard.
Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
Never use flammable liquids to start a fire - especially in a fireplace inside your home.
Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup in your chimney.
Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace.
When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
Allow ashes to cool before disposing (i.e., soak hot ashes in water) and place them in a metal container to avoid any potential fire hazards and store them three feet away from any combustible materials.
Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
If you are buying a real Christmas tree, make sure it is freshly cut.You can tell if the tree is fresh if the needles on the trees are green and hard to pull back from the branches. The trunk will be sticky.
Don’t put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep it watered at all times and don’t place it close to a heat vent or a fireplace. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
Holiday lights and decorations
Maintain holiday lights. Inspect them each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
Be careful not to overload electrical outlets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch. Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
Use only nonflammable decorations. All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
If you do use candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never put lit candles on a trees and never leave the house with candles burning.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.