It’s difficult to imagine anything spoiling the holiday season worse than a house fire
But that’s what could happen at a time when people are cooking more, using more electricity and burning more candles than usual.
Here are five of the most likely things to cause a house fire during the holidays. Then I’ll give you some tips regarding how to prevent a house fire, what to do during a house fire and things to consider after a house fire.
Holiday house fire causes
- Christmas trees. A dry Christmas tree is basically just a piece of kindling wood. The only thing worse would be wrapping electrical wires around it, and we do that as well. Christmas trees cause an average of 200 home fires annually. Keep plenty of water in your tree’s base.
- Overloaded outlets. We plug a lot of cords into outlets during the holiday season, sometimes using overheated extension cords. It’s important to use a surge strip that automatically shuts off when it gets too hot.
- Obstructed heaters. Many people rearrange their living rooms for the holidays to make room for a Christmas tree. Sometimes that means furniture and other items up against baseboard heaters and vents. The restricted airflow can result in overheating, so clear some space around anything that’s hot.
- Greasy ovens. Thanksgiving may be the biggest single day of the year for oven fires, but Christmas is not too far behind. Grease can build up in an oven and start on fire, especially when the stove is being used for several hours. Keep your oven clean and use drip pans.
- Candles. Scented candles provide a beautiful glow and an appealing aroma in homes during the holidays. But left unattended, they can cause irreparable damage. Too many people have fallen asleep before blowing out their candles, especially after they’ve enjoyed a little too much Christmas cheer. Better to blow them out too early than too late.
Before a house fire
Following are a few things you can do now to prepare for a potential fire in your home:
- Practice an evacuation plan with your family, both by sight and feel. It’s possible that the smoke will be too thick for you to see your way around. Have pre-arranged meeting places for your family members.
- Make sure all of the doors, windows, screens and security bars can be easily opened by everyone in your home.
- Install smoke alarms and change their batteries regularly. The most reliable types of alarms are dual-sensor smoke detectors. Also, use a carbon monoxide detector.
- Have a couple of fire extinguishers handy (one for the kitchen and one in your the bedroom) in order to keep small fires from spreading.
During a house fire
If you find yourself in a house fire that’s beyond the scope of a fire extinguisher, the best thing you can do is get yourself and other family members out of the residence. Here are four actions steps to take:
- Move to the nearest exit quickly. You may have to get down low if there is smoke in the air.
- If you need to open an interior door, do it slowly. The fire on the other side of the door could be worse than on your side.
- As soon as you’re out of the house, call 911. Don’t try to do this until you’re sure you and other family members are safe.
- Do not go back into a burning building.
After a house fire
Below are four things to do following a house fire:
- Even after a house fire has been extinguished, charred beams and other items can fall. Don’t go back in until you’ve been given the OK by the fire department.
- Contact your insurance agent and the landlord or mortgage company to report the fire.
- Assess the damage to your valuables and make a comprehensive list.
- If you’re planning to leave your residence for one or more days to stay at a hotel or at a friend’s residence, notify the police. Your house could become a target of thieves while you’re gone.