While it may seem Scrooge-like to think about fire hazards during the holidays, many of the activities people engage in -- cooking, entertaining, and decorating -- all present increased fire risks.
Cooking equipment fires are the leading cause of U.S. home fires and fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Relative to an average day, the number of home cooking equipment fires is 55% higher on Christmas Eve and 68% higher on Christmas Day.
Stay in the kitchen while you're frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop. Keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it's for a short period of time.
If you're simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you're cooking.
U.S. fire departments annually respond to roughly 260 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. One third of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in five resulted from a heat source that's too close to the tree.
If you have an artificial tree, be sure it's labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don't fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2" from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.
Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.
Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections.
Never use lit candles to decorate the tree and always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the room or going to bed.
After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
December is the peak month for home candle fires with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day representing two of the five top days for associated fires. Consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. If you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12" away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed.
Avoid using candles in the bedroom where two of five U.S. candle fires begin or other areas where people may fall asleep. Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.
Observe these precautions and have a safe and happy holiday season!