- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Make Fire Safety Part of Your Holiday Celebrations
Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer
STOW — “The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, but sadly they are also a time when many fires occur,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, “Keep your holidays bright by making fire safety part of your celebrations.” Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the days with the most home fires in Massachusetts.
“The first thing on your holiday to-do list should be make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey, “They will provide you the earliest possible warning of danger.”
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 December 15, 2018 at midnight, the Beverly Fire Department was called to a cooking fire in three-unit apartment building. The fire was a pan heating cooking oil fire. It started to extend to nearby cabinets when sprinklers activated and extinguished the fire. No one was injured at this fire. Alarms were present and alerted the occupants. The total estimated dollar loss was $15,000.
- On December 23, 2018, at 6:16 a.m., the Cambridge Fire Department responded to a cooking fire in a single-family home. The microwave oven in the kitchen overloaded and started the fire. Twelve firefighters were injured at this fire. It was undetermined if smoke alarms were present. The building was not equipped with sprinklers. The total estimated dollar loss from this fire was $850,000.
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 metal ashcan with a lid outside,” reminded Ostroskey. A single ember can stay hot and undetected for days. Use the three-foot rule and keep combustibles, like holiday decorations, three feet away from heat sources.
- On Christmas Day, December 25, 2018, at 9:40 p.m., the Harvard Fire Department was called to a chimney fire in a single-family home. No one was injured at this fire. The total estimated dollar loss from this fire was $50,000.
- On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2018, at 6:03 a.m., the West Boylston Fire Department was called to a heating fire in a single-family home. The cause of the fire was heat from a woodstove igniting the wall assembly next to it. No one was injured at this fire. The total estimated dollar loss from this fire was $51,000.
Heating Leading Source of CO in the Home
Heating is also the leading cause of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home. There have been several recent incidents where tragedy was barely averted. Residents called the fire department in Hanover and South Hadley because they were not feeling well, and since they had no CO alarms, were unaware that the real culprit was the invisible killer – carbon monoxide. Both smoke and CO alarms are required in all Massachusetts homes, but they have to be working to alert people to danger.
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 Eve, December 24, 2017, at 11:13 a.m., the Boston Fire Department was called to a candle fire in a basement bedroom in a single-family home. The candle ignited a nearby holiday decoration. No one was injured at this fire. There were no smoke alarms or fire sprinklers in the home. Damages from this fire were estimated to be $150,000.
- On December 28, 2017, at 3:55 p.m., the Fitchburg Fire Department responded to a candle fire in an 8-unit apartment building. A candle ignited the partition wall in the living room. No one was injured at this fire. Smoke alarms were present and alerted the occupants. The building did not have fire sprinklers. Damages from this fire were estimated to be $1,000.
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 promptly 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.