Fire safety tips to help keep you safe during the holidays

Fire safety tips to help keep you safe during the holidays

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Holiday decorations, Christmas trees, candles and cooking all contribute to an increased number of home fires during December, making it one of the four leading months for U.S. home fires.

One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.

Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 31 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to just the average for home structure fires…which is one death per every 144.

A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every four of those Christmas tree fires.

Between 2009 and 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 860 home fires that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of $13.4 million in direct property damage. 20 percent of the decoration fires started in the kitchen; 17 percent started in the living room, family room or den.

"The leading causes for fires are Christmas trees," said Lt. Christian Sliker with Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue. "Just make sure they are hydrated, make sure you have no frays in the lights, and make sure you're keeping them in a non-combustible situation. Keep them away from any flames, candles. And keep a kid-free zone, make sure the kids aren't messing with them as well."

If you have or are wanting to purchase an artificial tree make sure they are flame retardant, it will usually say it on the box. If not, there is fire resistant spray you can purchase.

Candles are a great way to set the holiday mood, but they account for a significant amount of home fires as well during this month.

More than half of home candle fires occur when something that can catch on fire is too close to the candle. The top four days for home candle fires are New Year’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve. In December, 11 percent of home candle fires began with decorations, compared to 4 percent the rest of the year.

While cooking fires are the leading cause of U.S. home fires and injuries year-round, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve ranked second and third after Thanksgiving as the leading days for home cooking fires. On Christmas Day in 2013, there was a 58 percent increase in the number of home cooking fires than on a typical day, and a 54 percent increase on Christmas Eve.

Sliker said candle fires is one that many people don’t think of. Remember, a candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn.

"Candles are a great way to set that ambiance for the holiday season, but they are extremely dangerous. Keep them away from children, away from combustibles, and keep your eyes on them at all times. Don't leave them alone I know it's a nice smell and a great fixture for the holiday season, but it poses a great threat."

Indoors or outside, it doesn’t matter, only use lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, and that will tell you if it’s conformed to safety standards. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted. Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

For added electric-shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold.

More tips:


·         When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

·         When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

·         When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic and do not block doorways.


·         Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.

·         Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

·         In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

·         Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.