While the only image of fire many people have during Christmas is chestnuts roasting over an open one, fire is among the very real dangers associated with the Yuletide season, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Nancy Granovsky, AgriLife Extension family economics specialist, said Christmas tree and candle fires, decorating-related accidents and unsafe toys are among the possible dangers people need to be aware of during the holidays.
“According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top three days of the year for home candle fires in the U.S are Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day,” Granovsky said. “And although Christmas tree fires are not very common, they are more likely to do serious damage or result in a death than other home structure fires.”
More than half of home candle fires occur when something that can catch on fire is too close to the candle.
Granovsky and the association offer the following tips for candle safety:
— Keep candles at least a foot away from flammable items or surfaces.
— Do not put candles directly on surfaces. Use a sturdy candle holder with a drip plate for wax.
— Blow out candles when you leave the home or go to bed and avoid using candles in the bedroom or other areas where people may fall asleep.
— Replace candles before they burn all the way down or before the flame gets too close to the holder or container.
— In the event of a power outage, use flashlights or other battery-powered lighting instead of candles.
Granovsky said Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually.
“The fires typically start due to an open flame from a candle or a short in the electrical lights,” she said.
Granovsky said consumers who prefer a real Christmas tree should choose one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
“And be sure to add water daily to the tree stand,” she said. “You’ll also want to make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source and isn’t blocking a door or exit.”
Granovsky said many people forget the potential danger of real Christmas trees once they have been removed from the home.
“Dried-out trees constitute a real fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside next to the exterior walls of your home,” she said.
“See if your community has a recycling program or make arrangements for pick up from the appropriate city removal service as soon as possible.”
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, during November and December of last year there were 12 fatalities and an estimated 14,500 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms as a result of injuries from holiday decorations. Falls, lacerations, back strains and ingestion of foreign objects were among the top holiday decorating-related injuries.
Granovsky and the safety commission offered the following suggestions for reducing injuries from Christmas decorations:
— If purchasing an artificial Christmas tree, choose one that is labeled as fire resistant.
— Take extra care when using a ladder to place holiday decorations, particularly when putting up heavy decorations with sharp edges or breakable components.
— Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory and only where appropriate.
— Replace old or worn out light strings and turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
— Never use lit candles as a Christmas tree decoration. Keep any lit candles in sight and away from flammable items — and far from areas where they may be knocked over.
“A new report for the CPSC also shows that last year there were an estimated 183,800 injuries and 11 deaths in which a toy was associated with many of the incidents, even though the toy wasn’t necessarily the cause of the death or injury,” Granovsky said.
She said to help keep children safe during Christmas, the safety commission recommends choosing age-appropriate toys and for children younger than 3, avoiding toys with small parts that may pose a choking hazard.
“They also recommend that kids wear helmets and other safety gear when riding bikes, scooters, skateboards or other riding toys, and that they avoid riding scooters or skateboards on a street or roadway with motor vehicles.”
Granovsky said the safety commission also has identified magnets as a potential safety hazard for young children.
“According to the CPSC, children’s magnetic toys are covered by a strong safety standard that prevents magnets from being swallowed. However, some magnet sets also have small magnets that could pose a danger, so building and play sets with small magnets should be kept away from small children.”
Granovsky said consumers also need to be aware of toys that have been recalled in order to avoid inadvertently buying them as Christmas presents.
“Even though a product has been recalled, it is still possible that some retailers have not yet removed that product from their shelves, so it pays to double check that the toy you are about to buy has not been recalled,” she said.
Granovsky said consumers can check for specific product recalls by going to: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/Recalls-by-Product/.