VICTORIA – Signs of the holiday season are everywhere, as lights are strung on people’s homes and decorated trees stand in front windows.
But hidden underneath the sparkle is the fire risk that can accompany seasonal trimmings and celebrations.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) asks everyone to be fire safe in their homes this year. As reported to the OFC, there have been 113 Christmas-related fires in the past decade in British Columbia. This has led to 15 injuries, four deaths and more than $14.5 million in damage.
“The majority of fires over the holiday season are a result of decorative lights being left on, being improperly used or being faulty,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “The OFC has also had reports of wreaths and boughs catching fire due to candles or improperly used lights. In one instance, a fire was caused by a person trying to burn their Christmas tree indoors, resulting in a chimney fire. I urge everyone to keep fire safety top of mind and consider how they can make the holiday season safer in their own homes.”
Here are some tips from the OFC to reduce your own fire risk and keep your loved ones safe.
- Keep trees, wrapping paper, decorations and other things that can catch fire away from heat sources.
- Ensure a real tree stays fresh and green by watering it daily. Get rid of the tree after the holidays or when it has dried out. Many communities run Christmas tree recycle programs.
- Choose flame-retardant or non-combustible decorations and only use lights that have been tested and labelled by a certified testing laboratory. Consider energy-efficient LED lighting, which produces less heat and poses less of a fire risk.
- Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
- Ensure electrical outlets are not overloaded.
- Have a “kid-free zone” of at least one metre around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly. Remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Never pour water on a grease fire. On the stove top, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. After a fire, the oven should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.
- Extinguish lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Use candle holders that are sturdy and will not tip over easily, and put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface. Battery-operated candles are an excellent alternative.
- Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
Smoke alarms and fire escape planning
- Ensure working smoke alarms are installed on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area.
- Test and clean smoke alarms regularly and change batteries at least twice a year.
- Develop a fire escape plan, practise it regularly and have at least two ways out of a home. Remember to share this emergency plan with guests as well.
Regardless of the season, or how you and your loved ones celebrate the holidays, it is important to be ready for any emergency. For further information on how to prepare for any emergency situation, visit: www.preparedbc.ca