The kitchen is a gathering place at this time of year and the source of delicious foods, whether it's baking or a festive ham or turkey. This is also the time when home fires peak, State Farm insurance says. About one-third of home fires and home fire deaths in the US occur during December, January and February.
Unattended cooking remains one of the top causes of home fires. In 2009, on Christmas Day, State Farm reported 36 cooking fire and smoke-related claims in the US, the highest number of claims for that day over a five-year period, and nearly double 2009's annual daily average of 19 claims.
The latest smoke alarms are wireless and interconnected; when one alarm sounds, they all go off. Another tip is to choose alarms with the UL label, which means they have been tested by a certified lab.
Home heating equipment is second only to cooking fires for causing home structure fires. Avoid setting up a space heater too close to curtains, furniture or even holiday decorations. Remember to keep at least three feet of clear space around it and to set it up on the floor unless it is designed for other use.
A fire is a welcoming touch, but save it for wood only. Do not burn garbage, cardboard boxes or Christmas trees in the fireplace. These items burn unevenly and may cause a dangerous flash fire. Most chimney fires are caused by the buildup of creosote, a highly combustible byproduct of burning wood. The best practice is to have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually.
Christmas Day is the peak day of the year for candle fires. Make sure candles are in stable and sturdy holders, and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning. Even better, use battery-operated flameless candles.
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots or broken sockets before putting them up. Remember to turn off holiday lights before leaving the home or going to bed. Don't overload your electrical outlets with too many lights or decorations. To reduce the chance of overheating, electrical cords should never be bundled together or run under rugs or carpet.
Take fire safety precautions when keeping a live tree in the house. Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. Regularly give the tree plenty of water.
Burns from hot water are more common than you may think. Test your tap temperature by letting the hot water run for a minute and holding a thermometer in the water stream. If it's more than 120 degrees F, check your owner's manual for instructions on lowering the thermostat.
Here's to happy – and safe – holidays at home!
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