While the Christmas holiday season is a favourite for many, it’s also one of the busiest for fire departments because of the increased risks at this time of year. The weather is cold, so heating appliances are seeing increased use, more cooking than usual may be going on and holiday decorations can also be responsible for fire-related incidents. Following some common-sense guidelines can help you to avert many potential holiday season mishaps.
Christmas Tree Safety
- If you have a natural tree, make sure it’s freshly cut and has both a strong colour and fragrance. This should help it stay green longer and become less of a potential fire hazard. Choose a tree with a high moisture content. Test it before buying. Needles should bend rather than break and only a few should fall when the tree trunk is tapped on the ground.
- Your tree shouldn’t be set where it blocks any doors or windows or is adjacent to any heat sources such as radiators, wood stoves, fireplaces, hot air ducts or TV sets.
- Use a large tree stand with widespread legs for good balance. Choose one that will hold at least 2-3 litres of water. Refill it every day, ensuring the water level never drops below the trunk’s end. If it does, you may need to re-cut the trunk to rehydrate.
- Never use lit candles on your tree.
- Dispose of the tree after no longer than 10 to 14 days, as it will have begun to become dangerously dry.
- If you have small children or pets at home, avoid the use of very small decorations. You should only use decorations or ornaments that are non-conductive, non-combustible and flame-retardant.
- Glass wool (angel hair) and spray-on snowflakes, when combined together, become highly combustible. Avoid using these.
- Don’t decorate your tree with any metallic ornaments. These represent a potential shock hazard if they come into contact with defective wiring.
- Only use CSA- (Canadian Standards Association) certified lights.
- Lights should be inspected for faulty or cracked bulbs and wires that are broken, frayed or exposed. Any damaged units should be discarded.
- Lights are typically rated for either indoor or outdoor use. Indoor lights aren’t weatherproof and shouldn’t be used outside. Outdoor lights may burn too hot to be safely used indoors.
- Electric lights shouldn’t be used on metallic trees, as faulty units pose a potential shock/electrocution threat. Instead, use floodlights kept at a safe distance from the tree and out of reach.
- All Christmas lights should be turned off when the home is left empty or when you’re retiring for the night.
- Place lighted candles a safe distance from anything that could possibly catch fire.
- Burn candles only when directly attended or overseen by a responsible adult.
- Candles should be used only when in sturdy holders and when on a flat, stable surface. Keep them away from drafts, curtains (or other combustibles), pets and children.
- Ensure all candles are fully extinguished before leaving an area or going to sleep.
- Never burn packing material, boxes, gift-wrapping or cartons in your fireplace. These burn too hot and too rapidly.
- Always use a properly fitted protective fireplace screen.
- Don’t use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Use only dried, seasoned wood and don’t use your Christmas tree as firewood.
- Don’t hang stockings from the mantel when the fireplace is being used.
- Clean out ashes regularly and place them in a metal container stored outside, away from any combustibles.
Because of all the additional lighting typically used during the holiday season, you may be tempted to overload some electrical outlets. This should be avoided.
- Make sure that all plugs are fully inserted into outlets or receptacles. Plugs not fully connected can pose the risk of shock, arcing or overheating.
- Ensure that all electrical cords and other equipment are CSA-certified and read the manufacturers’ labels and instructions for proper use.
- Inspect all cords and connections for wear, frays and exposed wires. Discard any damaged or defective cords.
- Bunched or coiled extension cords can overheat when in use. Avoid this, and also don’t run cords underneath rugs or carpets.
Most home fires and fire-related injuries start in the kitchen and are the result of overheated cooking oil, grease or fat. One way to avoid this is to use a skillet or deep-fat fryer that’s temperature controlled. These appliances are designed to restrict temperatures to below 200°C., which is the temperature at which most cooking oil begins to vaporize and pose a combustion risk. Should you experience a stovetop grease or cooking oil fire, follow these steps:
- Cover the pan with a lid, which will deprive the fire of oxygen. Immediately turn off the heat source.
- Never throw water on a grease fire, as this will cause an explosion. For shallow fires, cover with baking soda. Don’t use flour, as this can also be explosive.
- Don’t turn on the overhead fan. This may cause the fire to spread.
Appropriate Fire Safety Related Gifts
- Smoke detectors(s)
- Carbon monoxide detector(s)
- Temperature-controlled skillet or deep-fat fryer
- A-B-C fire extinguisher
- Candle snuffer
We wish you a safe and happy holiday season. Please make sure that your home smoke detectors and CO detectors have been tested and are in proper working order.