Safely Lighting the Holidays

CandlesDecember is the darkest month. The nights are longest, and in many locations December is also the cloudiest month, making the days seem even shorter. No wonder we jump at the chance to light up the winter holidays. Candles bring a warm glow to the rooms where we gather. Electric lights are used indoors on mantles, doorways and Christmas trees as well outdoors in colorful displays.

Our desire to light the darkness is, unfortunately, a big reason why December is also the peak month for candle fires. And overloaded circuits contribute to electrical fires.

A few simple precautions can help keep the holidays a season of joy.

 Prevent Candle Fires

  • Consider flameless battery-operated candles, which are becoming very widely available, give a realistic glow, and can last longer than flaming candles.
  • Put out all candles before everyone leaves the room. Almost one in five home candle fires starts by candles left unattended. A tip from the American Red Cross: Designate one person to walk around your home to make sure all candles (and smoking materials) are extinguished after guests leave.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that might burn. Nearly a quarter of candle fires start when combustible materials are left or came too close to a candle. That includes furniture, bedding, curtains, and decorations.
  • Place lighted candles out of reach of children, and remind them that, like matches and lighters, candles are tools for adults only. During the winter holiday season, an average of 40 home fires a day are caused by children playing.
  • Be especially vigilant on major holidays, when candles can combine with the distraction of festivities. Christmas is the peak day for candle fires, with almost three times as many fires started by candles as the daily average.

 Prevent Electrical Fires

  • Make sure light strings and all electrical decorations are in good condition before you put them up. Don’t use anything with frayed electrical cords.
  • Don’t staple or nail through light strings or cords.
  • Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. Flickering lights, tripped circuit breakers, and blown fuses are warning signs. Don’t ignore them – unplug!