Sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up in front of the fireplace while enjoying a few freshly baked holiday cookies and some festive candles while eyeing up all of those little treasures that have been collected over the years.
That experience is even better when shared with friends and family. But as Langford Fire Rescue reminds residents, this time of year also comes with a greater risk for house fires.
“We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season,” said Assistant Chief Chris Aubrey, adding the department doesn’t want to see the items used to celebrate this season become the source of a tragedy.
In an effort to avoid that, Langford Fire Rescue offered a few tips to help keep your home happy and fire-safe this holiday season.
When it comes to holiday decorating, it’s best to choose decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant. It is also important to keep lit candles away from decorations and other items that can catch fire. Aubrey added candles should never be left unattended because all it takes is for a cat to knock into one or the wind to blow curtains across the flame for a fire to break out.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, two out of every five fires caused by home decorations are started by improper use of candles and nearly half happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source.
If you have a live tree, Aubrey noted that keeping it well watered is key. “It’s pretty shocking how fast a dry tree will go up,” he said, adding that when trees start to dry out, homeowners should also re-evaluate the proximity of candles or other heat sources. The department posted a video on Twitter, showing just how quickly a tree can become fully engulfed.
“A lot of places don’t allow live Christmas trees,” he said, noting that people should check with their building manager or their strata regulations before purchasing one.
If you use lit candles in your home, make sure they are properly extinguished before leaving or going to bed. Also, make sure to turn off all light strings and other electronic decorations before leaving your home or turning in for the night.
Old light strings can be a hazard
“The biggest issue we do have is over loaded plugs or power bars,” Aubrey said. While he noted fires or surges are supposed to trip the breaker inside those units, sometimes the power bar and surrounding items can catch fire before the breaker trips.
“If there’s anything wrong with the lights, don’t try to fix them, just replace them,” Aubrey said. “Don’t risk a fire because a string of lights isn’t working.”
If you’re connecting multiple strings or different types, make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and Aubrey said to double check that all lights and power bars are CSA approved. While stores shouldn’t be selling lights or power bars that aren’t CSA approved, he said customers should always double check. “Sometimes a good deal comes with a risk.”
Also, make sure to use clips – not nails – when hanging lights to ensure cords don’t get damaged.
Keeping yourself safe while hanging lights or other decorations is also key, Aubrey noted. Make sure the roof, ladder or other surfaces are dry and free from ice. “We do get several injuries a year from people putting up lights. We did actually have a fatality several years ago.”
Chimneys get a workout when the temperature drops
This time of year is also when the department starts receiving weather-related calls as temperatures start to drop. Aubrey warned residents to watch for ice in the mornings and evenings and to make sure chimneys are clean and in working order. The department responds to several chimney fire calls during this time of year.
A good rule of thumb is to also make sure doorways and windows are clear. This will help prevent decorations from getting damaged accidentally and in the case of emergency, everyone in your household will have a safe route out.
It’s easy to get distracted with all of the holiday hubbub so make sure to stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop. It only takes a few seconds for something to go wrong. “We had an overcooked turkey in the oven on Christmas day that caused a house fire,” Aubrey said, reiterating how quickly a fire can start.
If you have any questions contact Langford Fire Rescue at 250-478-9555.