But cooking, entertaining, and decorating - the time-honored trademarks of the holiday season - can also present increased fire risks. By knowing where potential hazards exist, consumers can help keep themselves, their loved ones, and their property safe from fire.The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a member and audited designator of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), offers important tips and advice to help keep your holidays safe, merry, and bright.
Cooking equipment fires are the leading cause of U.S. home fires and fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. In 2008, relative to an average day, the number of home cooking equipment fires was 55% higher on Christmas Eve and 68% higher on Christmas Day.
Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stovetop, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it's for a short period of time.
If you're simmering, boiling, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you're cooking.
For homes with children, create a "kid-free zone" of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
U.S. fire departments annually respond to roughly 260 home structure fires that begin with Christmas trees. One-third of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in five result from a heat source that's too close to the tree.
If you have an artificial tree, be sure it's labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don't fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2" from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.
Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, and heat vents or lights.
Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
Replace any string of lights with a worn or broken cord, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. Read the manufacturer's instructions for the number of LED strands to connect.
Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the room or going to bed.
After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
December is the peak month for home candle fires, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day representing two of the top-five days for associated fires. NFPA statistics show that more than half of all candle fires start when candles are placed too close to things that can burn.
Consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. 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.
Use candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip over, and are placed on uncluttered surfaces.
Avoid using candles in the bedroom, where two out of every five U.S. candle fires begin, or other areas where people may fall asleep.
Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.
For additional information on holiday fire safety, including audio clips, videos, and safety sheets, visit NFPA's website.