CHICAGO - This time of year is full of fun holiday activities, like decorating your home and cooking with the family, but these activities can have costly consequences if things go awry resulting in a fire, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
While cooking and home heating equipment are leading causes of home fires in the winter, holiday decorations and Christmas trees present special risks this time of year. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) reports that two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles and nearly half of decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, they cause property damage totaling more than $14 million each year. These facts highlight the importance of homeowners exercising caution this holiday season.
“Holiday hazards are all around us if we don’t exercise caution this time of year,” said Chris Hackett, PCI’s senior director of personal lines policy. “Installing and regularly checking smoke alarms, keeping lit candles away from decorations and ensuring that Christmas trees and other flammable objects are at least three feet from a source of heat will go a long way towards keeping your family and property safe. It is also important to inspect electrical cords to make sure they are not cracked or frayed and that they are properly rated for their intended indoor or outdoor use.”
PCI Home Holiday Fire Tips
1. Use a freshly cut or artificial tree
Make sure you purchase a tree that’s freshly cut. Check the needles and branches to make sure they are flexible. And give it the smell test — it should have a sappy, earthy smell if it is fresh. A fresh cut tree is less of a fire hazard. If you purchase an artificial tree, make sure it’s fire resistant.
2. Double check all extension cords
Examine strings of lights to make sure none of the cords are frayed which could be a fire hazard. Also, before going to bed every night set a timer to remind yourself to turn off the lights to prevent any of the lights from overheating and causing a fire. Avoid overloading electrical outlets.
3. Keep trees away from any heat source
One-quarter of home Christmas tree fires occurred when some type of heat source, such as a candle, heating equipment, or electrical lights, was too close to the tree, according to NFPA.
4. Turn off Christmas tree lights before going to bed
If you have trouble remembering to turn off the lights and decorations when you call it a night, you may want to use a light timer. This safety precaution may not only help prevent a fire but may save you some money.
5. Discard real Christmas trees shortly after the holidays
Safety experts point out that the longer a tree is kept after Christmas, the more likely it is to dry out and become easy to ignite. As the needles begin to fall it is time to take the tree down.