With the holiday season fully underway, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan would like to remind residents to take all the necessary precautions when it comes to seasonal decorations in order to enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.
“What’s supposed to be one of the happiest and most joyous times of the year, can quickly turn into a tragedy if the proper precautions aren’t taken,” said Cryan (D-Union). “Every year we see heartbreaking stories of families being displaced in the cold during the holidays because of an unfortunate fire that could have likely been avoided.”
Cryan noted that data from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) shows that between 2006 and 2010, fire departments annually responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees. Additionally, decorative lighting was the cause of an estimated average of 160 home structure fires per year in this same period. Combined, they resulted in an average of 13 deaths, 34 injuries, and more than $26 million in direct property damage per year.
“Live trees, electric lights, candles, all of these things add to the excitement of the holiday season, but they also come with their risks,” added Cryan. “Many of these hazards can be avoided by following a few simple, sensible suggestions.”
Cryan urges residents to follow the following tips and suggestions offered up by the state Division of Fire Safety to keep homes safe.
Live Christmas trees:
§ Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.
§ The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
§ Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
§ Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame, or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
§ Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
§ Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
§ When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
Decorative Holiday Lighting:
§ Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
§ Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
§ Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
§ All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
§ Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.
§ Disposing of wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.
Holiday Candle Safety:
§ Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.
§ Make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
§ Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning.
§ Never use any flame near a tree.
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms:
§ Place a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
§ Place a smoke alarm on every level of your home and one outside each bedroom.