How To Avoid Holiday Fire Hazards in Your Home

Stop a holiday disaster before it starts with these tips.

Christmas lights plugged in at night and catching on fire iStock

Like a bow topping a gift box, the holidays wrap up the year. But the fun-filled season can also be a hazardous time for you, your family and your home, especially when it comes to the threat of fires—from Christmas trees, cooking and overloaded electrical outlets.

Here are some tips for seasonal fire safety:

Christmas tree fire safety

Talk about ruining your holiday—and possibly much more: An average of 160 home fires each year start with a Christmas tree. So, unplug all tree lights before you leave home, and keep the tree adequately watered. (If a gentle tug on a branch yields a handful of needles, the tree is too dry.)

Need proof of what can happen? Watch this video showing the dramatic difference between a fire starting in a dry Christmas tree versus a properly watered one.

Home fire safety: Pay attention to appliances

It’s hard to imagine life without the convenience of home appliances, but if that machine isn’t working properly—especially if it’s making strange sounds—it could pose a risk for fire, so don’t use it. Unplug it and either have it repaired by a professional or buy a new one.

Taking the heat

Portable space heaters are small, efficient and effective. They’re also potentially deadly, causing an average of 1,700 residential fires each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Always keep a generous cushion of space all around them(at least 3 feet) that’s clear of clothes, furniture, bedding and all other flammable materials.

Get more portable heater safety tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And speaking of safety, here are tips for using your fireplace.

Stirring up trouble in the kitchen

Never leave a hot stove unattended, and avoid setting recipes, dishtowels and other flammable items on or near the stovetop. Ceramic flat-topped stoves can look deceptively safe even when hot from recent use. If a grease fire ignites, never reach for water, tempting as it may be. Instead, keep a charged fire extinguisher nearby and be sure it’s rated for class K fires, which include those started by oils and fat.

Here are a few things you can do to reduce holiday fire hazards in the kitchen:

  • If you walk away from what you’re cooking, temporarily turn off all burners.
  • Turn pan handles toward the back of the stove so you and others are less likely to bump into them.
  • See smoke or boiling grease? Turn the burners off.
  • Be prepared with a pan lid or baking sheet at all times—either will help to put out the fire.
Infographic with tips of how not to short-circuit your home

Leave Town Without Worry

Celebrating the holidays out of town? Leave home without worry with the help of these holiday safety tips:

Heater: Don’t leave without setting the heat at a proper temperature.

Water: If you’ll be away for weeks at a time, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and drain all lines to prevent random leaks and to keep pipes from freezing and bursting in colder climates.

Watch: For even more security, have a friend or neighbor check on your home to catch any unforeseen issue while you are away.

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