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Holiday fire hazard: 5 Home appliances dangers to watch for

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Holiday home hot spots

It's a typical holiday scene: multiple dishes are cooking while children run around and guests mill about. Candles are lit, the fireplace is roaring. It's chilly in the basement playroom so the space heater is on full blast. More overnight guests mean the washer and dryer could be working overtime, whether or not you're home for the entire washing or drying cycle.

Space Heater

Sound familiar? If so, it should cause a red flag to go up. Ovens, toasters, microwaves, fireplaces, chimneys, washers, dryers, and space heaters are common appliances that have potentially dangerous consequences. The danger increases when these appliances receive extra use around the holidays.

Forensic specialists at Travelers have created a list of the most common dangers with everyday appliances, including a few tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season.

Cooking Equipment: Oven, Toaster, Microwave

The Problem: A house full of hungry guests makes the kitchen one of the busiest rooms in the house during the holidays. However, this commotion can be hazardous, as cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. In fact, more than 40 percent of all home fires occur in the kitchen, with food and/or cooking materials often being the first items to go up in flames, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The Tips: To prevent your food -- and your kitchen -- from going up in smoke, make sure to closely monitor cooking food. In addition, make sure items such as kitchen towels, oven mitts, pot holders and other combustibles are away from heat sources before turning on your oven, toaster or microwave. Finally, be sure to unplug your smaller kitchen appliances after use.

Space Heaters

The Problem: For those homes overflowing with holiday guests, basements and other areas that can double as bedrooms are often kept warm with space heaters. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with space heaters. More than 300 people die in these fires.

The Tips: When setting up a space heater, remember to keep it at least three feet of clear space around it and set it up on the floor unless it is designed otherwise. These tips will help ensure that combustible materials will not be ignited by the heater and that it will not tip over. In addition, never take a gas-fired or kerosene heater into a confined space. The results could be deadly.

Chimneys

The Problem: A warm, crackling fire is synonymous with the holiday season -- but it also accounts for 6 percent of all home fires, reports the NFPA. While an open flame is an obvious cause for concern, most chimney fires occur because of something you can't see.

The majority of chimney fires are due to creosote, a byproduct of burning wood, forming over the lining of your chimney and catching fire. Creosote is highly combustible -- and excess buildup can cause a fire to ignite in your chimney and quickly spread to the walls of your home.

The Tips: To protect your chimney from creosote buildup, the Chimney Safety Institute of America suggests having it inspected annually and cleaned, if necessary, and it advises to never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or Christmas trees; these can spark a chimney fire.

Dryers

The Problem: Turning the clothes dryer on before leaving for a last minute shopping trip might seem like a good time-management technique, but if a fire begins when nobody is home, it's likely that more damage will occur than if someone was around when it started. In fact, washers and dryers account for the same percentage of home fires as candles each year according to the NFPA.

The Tips: Dryers are particularly hazardous when lint accumulates and ignites. To prevent this from happening, clean lint traps after every load of laundry and follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions. Keeping the laundry area clean will also help limit the lint that can be pulled into the dryer.

Grills

The Problem: Although the weather may be a little colder, Americans still enjoy firing up the grill to cook up a perfect holiday feast. The Barbeque Industry Association estimates that Americans enjoy more than three billion barbecues each year and just as you'd imagine, there is a risk when grilling.

The Tips: Before you grill, position grills on a level surface away from the house, garage, landscaping, and most of all, children. In addition, protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and an oven mitt that fits high up over your forearm. Store spare propane cylinders outside and away from your house. Make sure that you turn off the tank valve when you are done cooking, and never use a charcoal grill in an enclosed space like a porch or garage.



For more Holiday safety tips on SheKnows:

Decking the halls: A danger to children
Celebrate the holidays safely
Christmas safety tips

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