9 Ways to Prevent a Holiday House Fire
Let the holidays light up your life, not your house
More home fires happen in the winter than any other time of
year, according to the
National Fire Protection Association. And it’s not hard to figure out why — those
chilly months are when we turn on our heating systems, use space heaters or light
a fire in the fireplace.
Winter also brings the holidays. So make sure the only sparks that fly this season are between you and your sweetie as you smooch under the mistletoe. Here are nine tips from the safety experts at UL for preventing a house fire.
Related: How to Survive a Fire
1. Keep an eye on candles. Keep lighted candles away from items that might catch fire, including curtains, table runners, fresh garlands and wrapped gifts. Blow out the candle before you leave the room.
Avoid stove distractions.
Cooking is the
number one cause of house fires. If you leave the kitchen while something's on
the stove or in the oven, carry an oven mitt with you as a reminder to go back
and tend to the food. Keep children and pets away from the cooking area.
Wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves as you stir and simmer,
since loose clothing can dangle onto burners and catch fire.
If you have a fire on the stove, turn off the burner and cover the pan with a lid. Never use water, baking soda or flour to extinguish a grease fire. Also, never carry the pan outside, as you could spread flames throughout the house in the process.
If your oven catches fire, turn off the heat, and keep the oven door closed.
3. Water your Christmas tree. If you have a real tree, letting it get dry is a fire hazard. A tree needs water once or twice a day for the first few weeks. If you have a fake tree, read the label. It should say “fire resistant.” But that doesn’t mean fireproof. Don’t place any kind of tree near a fireplace, radiator or lit candles.
4. Have fire extinguishers in your house. You should have one ABC fire extinguisher on each level of your home, near the exit, and in your garage if you have one. It's a good idea to have smaller, supplemental fire extinguishers for your kitchen and car, says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL.
5. Use space heaters wisely. Keep space heaters three feet away from combustibles such as curtains, clothing, bedding and furniture. Unplug the appliance when you’re not using it.
6. Install and test smoke alarms. Install at least one UL-listed smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement and inside and outside every sleeping area. Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace the batteries twice a year.
7. Get your fireplace, chimney and wood stove inspected. These should be cleaned and inspected by a professional every year. Your fireplace should have a sturdy screen to prevent embers from flying into the room.
8. Have your furnace inspected. Call a professional to service your furnace once a year. You can replace or clean the furnace filter yourself — the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute recommends doing it three times a year. Keep combustible materials, such as paint thinners, gasoline or kerosene, away from the furnace.
9. Keep flammables away from the fireplace. Make sure garland, wrapped presents and even stockings are far enough away that they won't catch fire if a spark flies. If you want to hang stockings over the fireplace mantel, move them when you light a fire.