In addition to the usual cheery sentiments about snow, family, food and shopping, the holiday season also brings fire hazards.
Candles, Christmas trees, decorative lights and fireplaces all pose threats to the safety of people and property if not handled correctly.
A candle purchased at a craft fair reportedly caused a fire inside a home Nov. 29, causing minor damage, said Patrick Young, public information officer and fire inspector for Clallam County Fire District 3.
The fire department was not called to the fire but received the report from the home’s resident, he said.
Young said fire officials thought with the holidays in full swing it was a good time to remind residents of the danger of using open-flame decorations and candles.
A five-year study by the National Fire Protection Association found more than 15,000 home fires started from candles each year, causing an annual average of 166 deaths, 1,289 injuries and $450 million in direct property damage.
Young said District 3, along with fire departments across the country, recommend the use of flameless candle products that utilize batteries and LED technology as a safe alternative to open-flame products. If an open-flame product is to be used, constant supervision is required and people should follow the safety rules of the National Candle Association, he said.
“In addition to following the recommended safety procedures for open-flame products, all home owners should have working smoke alarms, know how to locate and operate a fire extinguisher and develop and practice a fire escape plan,” Young said. “In the event of a fire of any size, 9-1-1 should be called and a fire department member should evaluate the damaged area.”
Young said while Christmas tree fires are rare, there is a high mortality rate tied to them.
A study conducted by the NFPA from 2005-2009 reported an average of 240 tree fires per year, causing 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in damage.
The death rate of one per 18 fires is a lot higher than the average of one death per 141 total reported home fires, Young said.
Careful attention should be paid to live trees, he said. Trees should be watered daily, kept away from heat sources and discarded as soon as large amounts of dry needles start falling off. When decorating the tree, careful attention should be paid to anything that contains an electrical current, he said.
Decorative lights cause an average of 150 structure fires per year, according to the NFPA.
Lights should be inspected for damage before use and labeled as safe by a certifying agency, he said.
During the holidays, another big concern is chimney fires, Young said.
More than a third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves or other fuel appliances to heat their homes, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Heating fires contribute to 36 percent of home fires in rural areas each year, often due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes, according to USFA.
The USFA recommends residents keep fireplaces and wood stoves clean, burn fuels safely, protect the outside of their homes and provide proper venting to protect the inside of their homes.
For more information on fire safety, call Clallam County Fire District 3 at 683-4242.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.