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Holiday Home Fire Safety & Prevention

family room with fire in fireplace decorated for the holidays

Holiday traditions have a way of bringing together family, friends, and neighbors. However, many of the most popular holiday festivities also invite some added risks to your home. If you want to keep your loved ones safe this holiday season, follow these six holiday fire safety tips. 

1. Switch to LED lights.

Many families love to plug in all kinds of indoor and outdoor lights, slow cookers, and other decorations around the holidays. While these additions can be fun and festive, they may also overload your home circuits. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one out of three Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical issues. One way to avoid these problems is by upgrading any of your holiday lights. LEDs use far less electricity and don't heat up like traditional light bulbs, helping you and your tree stay cool under the holiday pressure. 

2. Skip the candles.

woman lighting white candle with a match

Candles are popular in many homes around this time of year. While following proper candle safety limits the risks of starting a fire, you may be better off skipping the real deal altogether. Modern LED candles can give the same look and feel of a candle without any of the dangers. If it's the distinct candle smell you’re after, then candle warmers can provide the aroma without the open flame.

3. Use space heaters cautiously.

If it gets cold where you live, then you’ve probably been tempted to plug in a space heater. While these devices can quickly warm you up, they can also be extremely dangerous. According to our consumer product safety commission (CPSC), more than 25,000 residential fires and more than 300 deaths are caused by space heaters each year. If you’re forced to use a space heater this winter, then practice extreme caution. Use a 20-amp circuit, skip on the extension cord, and never leave it plugged in for more than a few hours at a time.

4. Inspect your fireplaces & chimneys.

stack of firewood in front of fire in fireplace

According to the National Fire Protection Association, over 30% of home fires start in fireplaces or chimneys. So, before Santa scoots down your chimney, perform an annual inspection or hire a professional to do one. Properly using your fireplace is also crucial.

How to Set Up a Fire Correctly 

  • Crack a window and open your grate or screen. 

  • Make sure your firebox is clean and free of buildup or residue. 
  • Confirm that your damper (the door at the bottom of your chimney) is open. 
  • Prime the flue by lighting a roll of newspaper and holding it up the chimney for a few minutes. 
  • Place your kindling (easily combustible elements, like small bits of dry wood or newspaper) inside the firebox. 
  • Stack four to six logs on top of the kindling and ignite with matches or a lighter. 
  • Keep your eye on the fire and enjoy it! 

Be sure to clean and discard ashes in between fires to prevent build-up in your chimney. To remove ash, soot, and creosote, you can use a fire shovel, handheld broom, dish soap and baking soda paste, and scrub brush. 

5. Clean out your dryer.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports about $35 million in property loss each year due to dryer fires. These types of fires peak in January and are entirely preventable. You should frequently empty the lint screen and keep your dryer vent opening free from snow and other debris to minimize your risk.

In general, washers and dryers must be maintained on a regular basis. Without proper care, you can run into costly repairs or replacements. Check out these 12 tips for DIY washer and dryer maintenance

6. Check your smoke & carbon monoxide detectors.

Ultimately, taking the proper steps to prevent household fires will stop most fires before they occur. However, you should still be doing all you can to maintain your home's fire detection systems. Take some time to test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and replace the batteries as needed. 

How to Test Your Smoke Alarms 

1. Press and hold the test button for a few seconds. If it doesn't make a sound, replace the batteries. 

2. Use an aerosol smoke detector tester. If it doesn't make a sound, replace the batteries. 

3. Light a match or two and hold it two to three feet below the detector. If it doesn't make a sound, replace the batteries. 

The Takeaway: Make Holiday Fire Safety a Priority 

mother and daughter laughing in front of holiday fireplace

Fire safety at home should be top-of-mind every holiday season and beyond. By following the above holiday fire safety tips, including switching to LED lights, skipping the candles, using space heaters cautiously, inspecting your fireplace, cleaning out your dryer, and checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, you'll keep your loved ones safe.

While safety is important, few things symbolize the holiday season like the glow of a warm and crackling fire. Check out these fireplace best practices and maintenance tips to ensure your fireplace is always an area of comfort and joy.