As Illinois residents prepare their homes for the holiday season, the nonprofit Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA) advises them to be aware of and avoid potential fire and burn hazards. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires — followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve — while candle and decoration fires peak in December.
“Unfortunately, fire and burn prevention measures are often overlooked during the holiday season as families have their minds on the celebrations themselves, but statistics prove that we should be even more attentive to fire safety during this time,” says IFSA Executive Director Philip Zaleski.
Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and injuries. It is also the third leading cause of home fire deaths. In 2013, Thanksgiving had more than three times the average daily number of reported home structure fires caused by cooking.
- Do not cook when tired or leave cooking unattended.
- Unplug appliances in case of a fire.
- Do not use water to put out grease fires.
- Prevent scald burns to children by turning pot handles inward on the stovetop; create a three-foot, child-free zone around the stove.
- Push the test buttons on your smoke alarms to make sure they are properly working.
- Do not use turkey fryers indoors; consider purchasing a turkey cooking appliance that does not use oil, as oil splashes and spills cause serious burn injuries.
Candle, Decoration & Lighting Safety
Nearly half of all holiday decoration fires occur because decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles, which most commonly occur on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
- Never leave candles unattended.
- Place candles on flat, heat-resistant surfaces at least one foot away from anything that can burn.
- Battery-operated flameless candles are better alternatives to traditional candles.
- Keep decorations clear from heat sources and be sure they are flame resistant or flame retardant.
Although Christmas tree fires are not quite as common, they tend to be very serious when they do occur. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death. Electrical problems accounted for one of every three home Christmas tree fires.
- Choose live trees that are fresh and green with needles that are difficult to remove.
- Keep live trees well watered and away from heat sources that can dry them out.
- Live trees should be disposed of shortly after Christmas.
- Tree lights should be turned off overnight and when residents leave home.
Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in nearly two-thirds of fires involving holiday or decorative lights.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so cords are not damaged.
- Check if lights are intended for indoor are outdoor use and use appropriately.
- Outdoor lights should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected outlet.
- When choosing lighting and electrical components, be sure they are UL listed to limit risks.
- Do not overload electrical outlets/extension cords; electrical components can overheat and ignite.
- Replace or repair damaged cords.
- Avoid placing extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
- Call a qualified electrician if outlets or switches are warm and if there are frequently blown fuses or tripping circuits.
“Illinois residents can better enjoy the holidays, knowing they have taken the proper steps to prevent fires in their homes,” adds Zaleski. “The Illinois Fire Safety Alliance wishes everyone a happy and fire-safe holiday season.”