Take measures to prevent holiday fires

When you’re decking the halls this year, make sure to keep fire safety in mind. That’s the main message behind “Project Holiday,” the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) holiday fire safety campaign.

“The holidays carry a host of traditions and festivities that people look forward to all year. Unfortunately, many of these activities carry hidden dangers that present potential fire hazards,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president for Outreach and Advocacy.

Holiday decorations, Christmas trees, candles and cooking all contribute to an increased number of home fires during December, making it one of the four leading months for U.S. home fires.

• While cooking fires are the leading cause of U.S. home fires and injuries year-round, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve ranked second and third, after Thanksgiving, as the leading days for home cooking fires. On Christmas Day in 2013, there was a 58 percent increase in the number of home cooking fires than on a typical day, and a 54 percent increase on Christmas Eve.

• Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they do occur, they’re much more likely to be deadly than most other fires. One of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death each year, compared to an annual average of one death per 144 total reported home fires.

• December is the peak time of year for home candle fires; the top four days for home candle fires are New Year’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Christmas Eve. In December, 11 percent of home candle fires began with decorations, compared to four percent the rest of the year.

• Between 2009 and 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 860 home fires that began with decoration, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of one civilian death, 41 injuries and $13.4 million in direct property damage. One-fifth of the decoration fires started in the kitchen; one out of six, or 17 percent, started in the living room, family room or den.

“Fortunately, with some added awareness and by taking some simple safety precautions, people can ensure a safe and festive holiday season,” said Carli.

“Project Holiday” offers a host of online tips and resources for consumers, along with tools and resources for local fire departments.