Fire Safety Experts Say Take Care After the Holidays

Whatever your family’s holiday traditions, special decorations are usually part of the festivities.  But with the holidays now behind us, the leaves and needles from evergreens and other decorative plants may be drying out, which means it’s time to remove centerpieces, wreaths, trees and other such decorations from your home.

We may be tempted to continue the festive spirit by leaving these decorations up until long after the last of the gifts have been opened and the guests have returned home. It’s good to remember, however, that the longer dried plant material remains in the home, the greater the fire risk becomes.

According to Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas trees and other greenery are very flammable. Says Carli, “Trees dry out the longer they remain in the home, and can be consumed by fire in a matter of seconds.” All trees can burn, though dry ones can be engulfed by flames significantly more quickly.

NFPA statistics indicate that nearly 40 percent of home fires that begin with greenery occur in January. Although these fires are not as common, they are much more likely to be serious when they do occur. For example, on average, one of every 31 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death. Compare that to an average of one death per 144 total reported home structure fires.

“We hope that by educating people about the extreme fire hazards, people will be prompted to remove their trees in a timely manner, giving their families the gift of fire safety as the season winds down,” said Carli.

The NFPA recommends using your local community’s recycling program for disposal of greenery, if available. Don’t put these materials in the garage or leave them outside.

The NFPA also offers tips on removing lighting and decorations to ensure they are taken down safely this year and in the right condition for 2017:

Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire.

As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.

Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.

Store electrical decorations in a dry place, away from children and pets, where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.

Source: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a global, nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. To learn more about fire safety during the winter months, visit the NFPA’s “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires” web page. Adapted by IlluminAge.