Holiday Season Home Fire Safety

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Stories of tragic incidents of fires in the home are every where in the media. Home fires needlessly claim many lives, not to speak of those who suffer disfiguring burns and the awful pain of recovery. In the United States in 2007, there were 1,557,500 fires accounting for 3,340 deaths and 17,675 injuries. Home fires represented 78% of all structural fires and 83.5% of all civilian fire deaths occurred in the home. This means that almost 2,900 people died in home fires last year.

The month of December is a particularly bad month for home fires. It is estimated that nationally, 415 deaths and 1,650 injuries occur in December alone. Most December fires are caused by cooking, probably as a result of the usual holiday festivities surrounding including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve. These cultural celebrations usually involve a fair number of parties and celebratory meals. The kitchen is usually the center of activity. People preparing the food often find themselves distracted with entertaining, holiday guests and last minute details. Limit the number of cooks and guests in the kitchen at one time. Know the rules for extinguishing cooking fires and always have fire extinguishers readily available in the home.

Two other potential hazards which make their appearance in December are candles and Christmas Trees. Increased use of candles occurs as residents strive to create a festive and warm atmosphere. Some great friends of ours suffered such an experience. Denny and Betsy hosted a very festive Christmas Eve celebration with several couples as guests. Betsy had decorated the family room with a number of large sand candles which were place in various spots around the floor. Sand candles are generally designed with the wick going fully through the candle to the bottom with a small end of the wick actually being exposed at the bottom of the candle. After the guests had departed, Betsy extinguished the flames in the candles. Several hours later, Denny was awakened by the smell of smoke and opened the bedroom door to be greeted by a wall of flame spreading from the family room to the hall where the bedrooms were located. Denny and Betsy gathered their two young children and escaped the only way possible which was through the master bedroom window which they had to break out. They suddenly found themselves in their night clothes standing in a Colorado snowstorm on Christmas Eve. They were safe, but their home, a car in the garage and all their belongings were lost, including the Christmas they had planned for their children.

The cause of the fire: a sand candle placed next to the Christmas Tree that had not been fully extinguished and after time, had burned down the full length of the wick and smoldered in the carpet below. The carpet then flamed up and caught the tree on fire which then exploded onto the drapes and the rest was history. Be sure to take special care with candles in their placement and in the extinguishing process and to make certain that children, who are often fascinated by the flame are closely supervised.

While Christmas Trees are a delightful part of the Holiday Season, cut trees do pose a great fire danger. It is highly suggested to use an artificial tree or perhaps a live tree which can be replanted and is not so prone to drying out. If a cut tree is desired, limit the amount of time it is exposed to the drying out caused by home heating and be certain to follow the instructions that come with the tree as to preparation and watering.

The Holiday Season is truly a joyous time of the year. Be careful that the memories of your Holiday Season are not those of a tragedy or near tragedy.

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