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The Top 7 Fire Hazards in Your Home During Winter


To many of us, winter not only brings holiday decorations, celebrations, and colder weather, but it also brings a number of new fire hazards to our homes. 

christmas tree ornaments are a fire danger

Dry Christmas trees cause hundreds of house fires every year.

1. Keep your tree watered!

Each year, dry Christmas trees are the cause of approximately 200 fires, 6 deaths, 25 injuries, and over $6 million in property damage. Electrical shorts in strung Christmas lights or open flames have no problem setting dry trees on fire.  To prevent this, make sure to always keep the tree stand filled with water. Also make sure that candles with open flames are not used as decorations on the tree or near the tree.

Keep in mind that although most artificial trees are sold as “flame retardant,” they can still catch fire. When an artificial tree burns, it will melt and produce toxic smoke. As with real trees, open flames should be kept away artificial trees as well.

2. Use Caution with Candles

  • Electric candles are a safer alternative, but if you are going to use open-flame candles, do so sparingly.

  • Keep candles away from trees, other decorations, furniture, doorways, and windows, and try not to use them during parties.

  • Keep candles, matches, and lighters out of the reach of children. Never have an open flame around children when they are unattended.

3. Precautions for Electric Lights

  • Pay attention to labels -- only use inside lights indoors, and outside lights outdoors.

  • Check strung lights and extension cords for frays or cuts and discard if they are not completely intact.

  • Keep cords out of walkways but do not put them underneath rugs or curtains, and do not coil them when in use -- they can overheat.

  • No more than three strands of lights should be connected. All connections should be tight and kept away from moisture, including outlets.

  • Never use colored plastic wrap, scarves, etc. to change the color of any lights.

  • Try to decorate with flame retardant/non-combustible materials.

  • Unplug cords when not in use.

Enjoy Your Fireplace While Keeping Your Kids and Pets Safe

hearthgate Fireplace Protection Gate

Fireplaces are great for families, but they also present an added risk of serious burns to your children and pets. But with HearthGate Fireplace Protection Gate, the risk is eliminated!

  • Base set fits a 6-feet wide by 2-feet deep hearth

  • Five 24-inch wide and 28-inch high interlocking sections (extensions available)

  • Includes a single one-hand open gate that swings in both directions

  • Constructed of non-toxic strong tubular steel ... heat-resistant and easy to clean!

  • Black finish blends beautifully with most home interiors

Read more about the HearthGate Barbecue and Fireplace Protection Gate Now!

4. Kitchen Safety

  • Keep clutter, such as pot holders, towels, bags, etc., away from the stovetop.

  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothing that can catch on pot handles or come into contact with hot burners.

  • Turn all ovens and stovetops off when not in use.

  • Use extreme caution when using a turkey fryer. The outside of the machine can reach very high temperatures and it can also tip easily, spilling scalding, hot oil.

  • Check all kitchen appliance cords to make sure there are no frays or cuts.

  • Do not overload circuits by plugging too many appliances into the outlets.

5. Fireplaces

  • Make sure that chimneys are properly cleaned -- to ensure this, have them inspected at the beginning of each cold season.

  • Use a protective fireplace screen to protect people and animals from getting too close to the fire/heat source. The Hearthgate Fireplace/Barbecue Protection Gate with either an 8” or 24” extension provides excellent protection.

  • Do not use flammable liquids in the fireplace.

  • Do not burn paper in the fireplace -- lit pieces of paper can float out of chimneys and land on neighboring buildings. Only use dry wood -- not wood/boughs from live-cut trees as these lit particles can also float out of the chimney.

  • Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace -- toxic smoke is released when it is burned.

  • Make sure the fire is completely out before you go to sleep.

  • Never close the damper when there are hot ashes in the fireplace.

christmas tree ornaments are a fire danger

Avoid the temptation of burning your used wrapping paper in the fireplace; toxic smoke is released when it is burned.

6. Precautions for Portable Heaters/Space Heaters

  • Do not leave heaters unattended -- turn heaters off when leaving the room or going to sleep.

  • Do not leave children or animals alone with a heater when it is in use.

  • Never dry clothes on the heater.

  • Keep heaters at least 3 feet away from any combustible object, bed, wallpaper, wood floor, animal, etc.

7. Wood or Coal Burning Stoves

  • Only burn dry wood or coal.

  • Do not use flammable liquids to start the fire.

  • Never dry clothes on the stove.

  • Make sure the stove has been installed correctly with at least 3 feet between it and any combustible object.

  • Make sure the stove has been placed on an approved stove board to prevent the floor from catching fire.

  • Have the chimney inspected each year by a professional.

General Fire Safety Tips

  • Keep a carbon monoxide detector in your home.

  • Keep at least one smoke alarm on each floor of your house, making sure to install them inside and outside of bedroom doorways.

  • Clean your dryer’s lint screen after every load and vacuum out the exhaust hose at least once a year.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, laundry room, and garage.

  • Keep escape ladders by a window in each bedroom on the second floor or higher.

  • Create a fire evacuation plan with your family.

Recommended Reading

Top 10 Dangers of Fireplaces: What Every Fireplace User Should Know

Would You Know What to Do in a Fire or Flood?

Sources Christmas Tree Fire Hazards: Water that Tree! December 2008

United States Fire Administration. Winter Fires – Safety Tips for the Home. December 2008

University of Florida. Winter Fire Safety. December 2008

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