News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 19, 2012

Be aware of fire dangers holidays bring


The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The approaching holiday season brings traditions, parties, shopping, entertaining — and potential danger, according to Chad Overton of Servpro of Clay, Parke, Sullivan and Vermillion counties.

The latest statistics available from the National Fire Protection Association show the holidays are a high-risk time for home fires. Christmas trees are responsible for 240 home fires each year, and other holiday decorations are the cause of another 1,170 fires. Thanksgiving Day sees almost a threefold increase in cooking-related fires; cooking fires are almost twice as likely to happen on Christmas Day as on non-holidays.

“No one wants to think about the possibility of losing their home, and even more tragically, lives because of a fire during the holidays,” Overton said. “But statistics show it’s important to be aware of the increased risk seasonal decorating, entertaining and cooking can cause during the holidays.”

Overton reminds Terre Haute residents that prevention and common sense can help keep homes and families safe during the holidays and throughout the year. Some sobering facts about holiday fires and some tips:

Tree facts

• Thirty-three percent of tree fires are caused by electrical problems; 13 percent involve decorative lights. Check wiring on lights for breaks and wear. Replace worn strings and don’t exceed manufacturer guidelines for connecting multiple strands of lights. Don’t leave tree lights plugged in when you are away from home or when you go to bed.

• Forty-two percent occur on the 12 days from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3. Keep live trees well watered to reduce the chance of a fire.

Holiday decoration fire facts

• Forty-five percent of all holiday fires involve candles; that number rises to 56 percent in December. Use flameless candles. If you do use traditional candles, burn them in sturdy candleholders, well away from drapes and other flammable materials, and never leave them unattended or allow them to burn down to less than one inch in length.

• Forty-eight percent of all decoration fires start because the decoration is too close to a heat source. Keep all decorations away from heat sources like radiators, portable heaters, fireplaces, etc.

Cooking fire facts

• Cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day exceed the daily average by 272 percent. Supervise items on the stovetop. For kitchen fires, 58 percent involve ranges; homes with electric cooktops have a higher risk of fire than homes with gas cooktops.

• Cooking fires on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve exceed the daily average by 96 percent and 89 percent respectively. Keep flammable items — potholders, packaging, wrapping, wooden utensils, loose clothing — away from the stovetop. And, don’t let lack of sleep or alcohol consumption affect your ability to concentrate on preparing the meal.

“It only takes a moment’s distraction or carelessness to turn a holiday celebration into a catastrophe,” Overton said.

“We hope these tips will be a reminder to Terre Haute area families to make fire prevention a priority in their holiday preparations, so they can spend the season enjoying family and friends, not dealing with the aftermath of a fire.”