WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Now that trees, menorahs and holiday lights are being strung and lit throughout Westchester County, fire officials want to remind you to take precaution against fire.
Last year, approximately 240 home fires involved Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involved holiday and decorative lights in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). Collectively, these fires resulted in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
To help you avoid becoming one of these statistics, here are some tips for holiday fire safety. “Trees should stand at least three feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, heat vents and lights,” according to Chief Neil Caputo of the Westchester County Fire Prevention Division, Department of Emergency Services. Also make sure to keep your live tree moist and well-watered.
If you’re lighting a menorah, “Make sure there are no combustible materials around it, and always blow out the candles if the menorah is unsupervised,” he said.
Check all of your holiday lights before hanging them. “Lights kept in attics during the off-season can be subjected to extreme heat, which can compromise the integrity of the coating and expose the cords’ copper wiring,” said Robert Ross, a fire marshal for the State of Connecticut. Those cords, he said, should be considered irreparable and thrown away.
Fire safety, said Ross, is not necessarily specific to the holiday season, however it does fall during the time of year when people “button up” their homes for the winter and seek supplemental means of heat, from fireplaces to space heaters.
These, he said, present their own risks in terms of everything from proximal fire hazards – objects, such as embers shooting from a fireplace to Christmas trees, curtains and any other number of flame sources. Faulty ember disposal, hot or “live” fireplace detritus being placed too close to a home, also presents a tremendous fire hazard and caused the fatal fire in Stamford, Conn. last Christmas Day .
Perhaps most importantly, said Ross, double-check your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors to ensure the batteries – if they are not hardwired – are working properly. That device, he said, is your first protection against a fire or carbon monoxide tragedy.
And if you’re still looking, Ross has a holiday gift suggestion: “A smoke/carbon monoxide detector. I have seven in my house.” It is, he said, a gift that keeps on giving.
Click here for more information about holiday fire safety.