The Holiday Season is a special time for festivities and celebrations with loved ones. It’s also a time when the number of preventable residential fires increases across Canada.
The Holidays are, for all intents and purposes, upon us. Homes are strewn with twinkly lights, the Holiday parties are in full swing, and the festive glow of Christmas trees emanates from living room windows up and down the block.
To help ensure you have as safe a Holiday Season as it is festive, here are a few easy hints to make fire safety a priority, taking the necessary steps so as to avoid a holiday disaster, as you embrace all the decorating and fun the Season has to offer.
First up, one of the most important holiday tips – or any time, really – is to make sure that smoke alarms are working and that you’ve got one on every level of the house, particularly in close proximity to all sleeping areas.
The Christmas Tree
- When purchasing a real tree, check for freshness by tapping it on the ground – dropping needles indicate a dry, highly flammable tree. Needles should be hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, they do not break.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, make sure it’s ‘fire resistant.’ Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. It should also bear the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) label.
- Place your tree away from fireplaces, floor heaters and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry out fresh trees, so be sure to keep the stand filled with water by topping it up daily.
- Never use lighted candles on or near the tree.
- Dispose of a real tree within 10 to 14 days of purchase, or when the needles begin to fall off in large quantities; otherwise it can start to dry out and pose a fire hazard.
- Ensure the chimney flue is open and clean before you light a fire.
- Remove all decorations that could be burned around the fireplace, such as stockings.
- Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result, as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- Never leave the fire unattended or let it smoulder.
- Do not use Christmas trees for firewood. Only use seasoned and dried wood.
- Choose decorations that are flame-resistant, non-combustible and non-conductive.
- Do not use metallic ornaments on the tree. If they make contact with defective wiring they could become a shock hazard.
- When decorating the tree, place breakable ornaments on the higher limbs. It will protect your children and pets as well as safeguard the breakables.
- Use CSA-approved lights only. Place indoor and outdoor lights in their respective environments.
- New or old, check light strings for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Make sure you do this before putting lights up. It is much easier to replace bulbs on the ground, than on the roof.
- Do not use electric light strings/sets on metallic trees. A faulty system could energize the tree and shock or electrocute anyone coming into contact.
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Do not overload electrical outlets, and never string more than three sets of lights per single extension cord.
- Never leave burning candles unattended, and always keep out of reach of children.
- Keep candles in sturdy holders on a stable surface, well away from curtains, trees or any other potentially flammable objects.
- To eliminate the risk of an open candle flame, use battery-powered candles whenever possible, especially when using candles in a decorative setting.
- Put out all candles before leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Never leave your cooking unattended. This is the leading cause of kitchen fires.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking.
- Make sure items that can catch fire, such as paper towels, are kept away from the stove.
- Use a timer to remind you that the stove or oven is on when roasting or baking food.
- In case of a fire, never turn on the overhead fan – this could spread the fire.
- If a fire starts and can’t be quickly put out, leave your home and immediately call the fire department from a safe location.