For most people, the holidays are a time for family festivities, good cheer and decking the halls. Christmas trees, menorahs and wreaths welcome visitors at front doors, and strings of sparkly, blinking lights hang from eves and outline doors and windows.
But as residents deck the halls this holiday season, property owners should be aware of the dangers that come with holiday lights, candles and other decorations. Few consider that these decorations can contribute significantly to holiday fires. Dry holiday trees and lighted candles comprise some of the greatest dangers.
Christmas tree fires are not all that common but they do happen and can spread quickly. An average of 230 home structure blazes resulting from Christmas tree fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year. Electrical problems cause one of every three Christmas tree fires, and one in every five is the result of the tree being too close to a heat source.
Here’s a telling video shows how quickly a dry tree can go up in flames − the tree on the left is dry compared to the tree on the right that has been properly hydrated.
Other decorations and carelessness in decking the halls can contribute to holiday fires and potentially create a total loss for the property.
Ed Wolff, President of LeasingDesk Insurance, says the holidays are a time when residents should be more mindful of practicing safety to protect their own belongings as well as the property owners’ assets. Being sensible and turning off indoor holiday lights when leaving the home or thoroughly inspecting decorations with electrical components before putting them up are just a couple of examples.
“Residents should take extra precautions during the holidays and be aware of the potential dangers,” he said. “People tend to be festive and in the holiday spirit, and forget about those things. They can’t afford to do so.”
A number of resources for holiday safety are available from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), National Fire Protection Association, and the U.S. Fire Administration.
Here are some that property owners and third party managers can use to educate residents about how to enjoy the holidays safely:
10 Tips to Safely Enjoy the Holidays
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
- Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. (If the bulb lights are becoming too much hassle, check out the new LED strands. They come in a variety of colors and styles, and because they burn cooler, your electric bill won’t take a hit.)
- Artificial trees should be labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Never use candles to decorate the tree. Artificial candles are an available and safer alternative.
- After the holidays, get rid of live decorations. Dried-out trees, wreaths, and garlands are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home, garage, storage building, or placed outside on the property.
- Make sure the tree and other holiday decorations are not blocking an exit, and that they are at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Have an operable fire extinguisher readily available.
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