The holidays are a joyous time of year for all, but in all the hustle and bustle of shopping, family gatherings, and reverence, it is always important to remember potential dangers that lurk in your own home during this season. With religious holidays that rely on lit candles, or heat sources close to flammable objects, it’s important to keep safety in mind to prevent fire damage and personal injury.
Ceremonial candle-lighting is common in several cultures. Celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanzaa traditionally require the use of candles and a menorah or kinara, respectively. Candle flames can be the cause of a holiday nightmare, if they are not used properly. Given the fact that both of these holidays occur in the month of December, it is no surprise that the month held the most fire events through the years in a study done by NFPA. When lighting religious or celebratory candles this holiday season be sure to follow these tips to prevent a fire accident:
- Use a sturdy candle holder
- Do not pass around lit candles; or if this is necessary for the practice, take extreme care and only allow adults to do so
- Avoid placing lit candles near windows with blinds or curtains
- Never leave a burning candle unattended
- Lit candles should be watched by adults
- Remember to extinguish the candles before leaving the room or going to sleep
NFPA has additional safety tips here.
On Christmas Eve and other holidays, it is also popular to place paper lanterns along walkways, called luminarias (or farolitos depending on your part of the United States). This follows an old Spanish tradition for celebrating Christmas. The obvious danger lies in the fact that the lighting effect, though pleasing to the eye, relies on a candle inside of a paper bag. If one of these lanterns were to fall over, it could be catastrophic to your home or neighborhood. A great modern alternative can make use of electric, flameless tea lights.
While the developments of low-heat LED lights have helped to diminish the number of fires reported annually caused by lights on the Christmas tree, a study from NFPA shows that electrical failure or malfunction factored into almost two thirds of fires involving lights. Setting up lots of lights at a time can also pose the risk of an electrical burn or fire. For the more extravagantly decorated homes during the holidays, always ask a professional for assistance with how to route your lights properly to prevent any electrical hazard.
The risk of a fire in your home is of course much higher with a real Christmas tree than it is with fake Christmas trees. While the scent, look, and feel of a freshly chopped tree is great, a synthetic tree will likely be made from flame retardant materials. If you choose to obtain a natural tree, it is important to remember to regularly hydrate your Christmas tree, as it will be more flammable when it is dried out. See NFPA’s safety tips on lighting and setting up your Christmas tree.
The lights of the holiday season are wonderful and should be celebrated, but keep safety in mind when decorating. Have a safe and joyful holiday season.