Fort McCoy Fire Department offers tips
to help prevent holiday fire dangers
|For most of us, the holiday season represents a time
for family festivities and good cheer. What few of us consider is that
the holiday season is a time when there is an increased risk of home
fires. According to the Fort McCoy Fire Department, many households
engage in holiday activities that serve as some of the leading causes of
U.S. home fires, including cooking. Christmas trees, candle usage and
holiday decorations also significantly contribute to the seasonal causes
of home fires. Add to that the hectic nature of the holidays, when
people are trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time, and the
chance for home fires grows even further.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed,
distracted or tired,” says Curt Ladwig, fire protection inspector with
the Fort McCoy Fire Department. “That’s when home fires are more likely
Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to
holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe
for everybody. “By taking some preventative steps and following simple
rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented,” said Ladwig.
With unattended cooking as the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home
fire injuries, Ladwig says to stay in the kitchen while you’re frying,
grilling or broiling food.
Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch
fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen,
even if it’s for a short period of time. If you’re simmering, boiling,
baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind
you that you’re cooking. The Fort McCoy Fire Department also suggests
creating a “child-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and
areas where hot food and drinks are prepared and carried.
Candles are widely used in homes throughout the holidays, and December
is the peak month for home candle fires. The nonprofit National Fire
Protection Association’s (NFPA) statistics indicate more than half of
all candle fires start because the candles had been too close to things
that could catch fire.
The Fort McCoy Fire Department encourages Fort McCoy residents to
consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real
candles. However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least
12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them
out when you leave the room or go to bed. Use candle holders that are
sturdy, won’t tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid
using candles in the bedroom where two out of five U.S. candle fires
begin or other areas where people may fall asleep. Lastly, never leave a
child alone in a room with a burning candle.
According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments annually respond to an average
of 250 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Nearly half of them
are caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat
source that’s too close to the tree.
The Fort McCoy Fire Department offers the following advice for picking,
placing and lighting the tree:
• If you have an artificial tree, be sure
it’s labeled, certified or identified as fire-retardant by the
• If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the
green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the
stand, cut one- to two- inches from the base of the trunk.
Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.
• Don’t place the tree where it would block
an exit, and ensure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat
• Use lights that have the label of an
independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are
designed for indoor or outdoor use.
• Replace any string of lights with worn or
broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three
strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in
• Never use lit candles to decorate the
• Always turn off Christmas tree lights
before leaving the home or going to bed.
• Get rid of the tree after Christmas.
Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or
garage, or placed outside the home.
• Bring outdoor electrical lights inside
after the holidays to prevent hazards. This also helps them last longer.
By following these fire prevention tips and measures, the Fort McCoy
Fire Department says you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your
home, and enjoy a safe holiday season. “The holidays quickly can turn
from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” Ladwig said. “By taking
simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards, and make
this time of year a healthy and happy one.”
(Submitted by Fort McCoy Fire Department.)