How to reduce risk of home fires this holiday season

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    Special to The PREVIEW

    Safety might not be the first thing people think of as the holiday season approaches. Faith, celebrations, decorations and holiday dinners all come to mind when considering the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean safety should be left out of holiday planning.

    Fire safety bears special consideration during the holiday season, when the prevalence of fire hazards like Christmas trees, holiday lighting displays and other decorative items increase the risk for home fires. 

    Such tragedies can be averted with a few simple safety measures:

    • Tend to your tree. Live Christmas trees are awe-inspiring, but they also pose a significant fire risk. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges celebrants to purchase only healthy trees with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Such trees are less likely to dry out, especially when well-watered throughout the season. Dry trees can catch fire more easily than healthy trees if embers from nearby fireplaces or candles drift in their direction.

    • Recognize that location matters when decorating. The NFPA notes that Christmas trees should always be placed at least 3 feet away from any heat source, including fireplaces, space heaters, heat vents, candles, and even overhead lights. If decorating with candles, never place them on the tree or on tables where other flammable decorations have already been placed. Chanukah menorahs should never be placed near curtains or other decorations.

    • Turn off all lights and extinguish all lit decorative items when leaving the home or going to bed. Lit candles and menorahs should never be left unattended. The NFPA recommends turning tree lights and exterior decorative lights off when leaving the home or going to bed.

    • Utilize a fire screen on fireplaces. Embers can catch on trees, decorations or anything else that’s flammable if they escape the fireplace. Fire screens prevent that from happening by ensuring embers from burning logs stay in the fireplace. Like candles and menorahs, fires burning in a fireplace should never be left unattended. Make sure all embers have been extinguished before leaving the home or going to bed.

    • Keep discarded trees away from your home. A 2014 analysis from the NFPA found that none of the 10 days with the largest share of Christmas tree fires were before Christmas. Dried out trees still pose a fire risk even after they’ve been removed from a home. When discarding a tree at the end of the holiday season, place it at the curb or keep it a safe distance away from your home and garage until you can.

    Fire safety measures are an important component of the holiday season that can prevent this joyous time of year from turning tragic.