December 25 Second Busiest Day for Home Fires Make Fire Safety Part of Your Celebrations
Fire officials urge people to make fire safety an important part of planning for their holiday celebrations because more home fires happen on December 25 than any other single day in Massachusetts except Thanksgiving. “Start by making sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “Fires are always terrible, but they seem worse during the festive holiday season,” he said.
Cooking Leading Cause
Ostroskey said, “Cooking is the leading cause of fires in the home and the holiday season is no exception. It is important to remember two key things: Stand by Your Pan to prevent cooking fires and to Put a Lid on It if one does occur.” “Leaving cooking unattended, even for a minute, is the leading cause of fires,” said Ostroskey. When baking, use a timer, and stay nearby.
- On Christmas Eve 2015, at 2:35 p.m., the Boston Fire Department was called to a cooking fire in a 14-unit apartment building. The fire began in a third floor kitchen when a plastic bag fell onto the stovetop. Smoke alarms were present, alerted the occupants and no one was injured. Sprinklers operated and suppressed the fire until the fire department arrived. The total estimated dollar loss was $10,000.
- At noon on Christmas Day 2015, the Bridgewater Fire Department was called to a cooking fire in a single-family home. Heat from the stove ignited a cardboard carrying container. Although there were no smoke alarms or sprinklers, no one was injured. The total estimated dollar loss was $35,000.
Heating Second Leading Cause of Holiday Season Fires
Heating is the second leading cause of home fires during the holiday season. “Keep warm and keep safe by having the furnace and chimney checked by professionals, and when heating with wood, dispose of the ashes in a lidded metal ashcan outside the home,” reminded Ostroskey. A single ember can stay hot undetected for days. Use the three foot rule and keep combustibles, like holiday decorations, three feet away from heat sources.
- On the evening of December 23, 2015, the Westfield Fire Department was called to a fatal fire in a single-family home. The fire was started by a portable space heater in a bedroom too close to combustibles. The victim, a 48-year old physically disabled man was trying to escape when he was overcome by the heat and smoke of the fire. The home did not have any smoke alarms, and the building was not sprinklered. The total estimated dollar loss from this fire was $125,000.
Heating Leading Source of CO in the Home
Heating is also the leading cause of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home and sadly we lost a father and son in Acushnet on December 7, 2016. They were overcome by the invisible fumes from a leaky furnace and had no carbon monoxide alarms in the home to warn them. Both smoke and CO alarms are required in Massachusetts homes.
- On Christmas Day 2015, at 2 p.m., the Milford Fire Department found two people dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in their bedroom. Two other occupants were taken to a local hospital for treatment. The duplex did not have any CO alarms. It is believed a faulty gas furnace or water heater may be the cause of the CO.
Burn Candles inside a 1-Foot Circle of Safety
State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “Many of the holidays celebrated at this time of year use candles. Sadly, the increased candle use at this time of year also causes a boost in candle fires.” Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are among the December days when the most candle fires occur. Consider using battery-operated candles instead, especially if you have children or pets.
- On Christmas Day, December 25, 2015, at 8:20 p.m., the Brockton Fire Department was called to a candle fire in a second floor bedroom in a single-family home. No one was injured at this fire and damages from this fire were estimated to be $15,000.
- On December 26, 2015, at 5:40 p.m., the Boston Fire Department was called to a fire in a 3-unit apartment building. A candle had fallen into spilled acetate while an occupant was polishing her nails. Fortunately, no one was injured at this fire. The building was not sprinklered and damages from this fire were estimated $750,000.
Christmas Tree Safety Tips
Although Christmas tree fires are rare these days, they are very serious when they do occur. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one-third of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and one-quarter start when the tree is placed too close to a heat source such as a fireplace, woodstove, radiator or space heater. Ostroskey said, “Always keep your Christmas trees watered, place it well away from a heat source, and dispose of them after the holidays.”
For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or the Department of Fire Services at 1-877-9-NO FIRE or on-line at http://www.mass.gov/dfs and search on Winter Holiday Safety.