Fire Safety Tips For Holiday Season

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Winter season – a time for holiday celebrations and severe cold weather conditions – can be a risky time for fires.
Forgetting basic fire safety can lead to deadly and destructive results.

“Celebrations and busy schedules distract us all from paying attention to good safety practices,” says Karla Klas, BSN, RN, CCRP, injury prevention education specialist at the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center.

Using holiday lighting and ornamental candles increases the risk of home fires this time of year, Klas adds.

Those who enjoy the beauty of candles during the holidays should remember to never leave them unattended, she says.

“Candles should be located safely away from combustible materials and where children or pets cannot brush into them,” Klas says. “Also, consider using flameless LED candles as a safer alternative.”

Fires can also result from smoking indoors. Smokers tend to stay inside during the winter months, and fires can easily result from an untended cigarette or a smoker falling asleep after a holiday party.

“One of the most basic and important things we can do to be safe is install a working smoke detector in each level of our homes,” Klas says. “But a smoke detector without a working battery does no good.”

It can be tempting to remove a battery from a smoke detector to run a toy or stop a kitchen alarm from going off while preparing a holiday meal, but you should never do that, Klas notes.

“It is absolutely not worth the risk,” she adds. “We have lost families in our communities in the past few years from non-working smoke detectors.”


Basic childproofing goes a long way toward fire prevention, says Cindy Wegryn, coordinator of Safe Kids Washtenaw County and manager of the Trauma Program at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“Lock matches, lighters and flammable materials out of reach,” Wegryn says. “To prevent overheating and an electrical fire, avoid overloading electrical sockets with multiple cords and keep all cords on top of rugs. “Most important, supervise,” she adds. “There is no substitute for keeping an eye on your kids.”

In the winter months, the risk of home fires and fire-related deaths increases as a result of cooking and heating fires. It is important to have furnaces inspected to ensure that they are in good working condition, Klas says.

Because of colder temperatures, many people use fireplaces, wood stoves or space heaters to keep warm.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of cases of house fires and burn injuries from the use of space heaters,” Klas adds. “Remember to keep space heaters a minimum of three feet from curtains, papers and any other flammable materials. They should be stable and not located where a child or pet could tip them over.”

If fireplaces or wood stoves are used, follow these safety guidelines:

* Wood stoves should be located at least 36 inches from combustible surfaces and have proper floor support and protection.

* Never use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.

* Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening, to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in, and help prevent the possibility of burns to occupants.

* Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is completely extinguished. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.