'A big hunk of kindling': Officials urge caution with increased fire hazards over the holidays
VANCOUVER -- Decorating your home for the holidays can be a fun tradition, but those lights and Christmas trees can create a number of fire hazards in your home.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner in B.C. has released a list of tips to ensure people across the province have a safe holiday season when decorating, cooking or lighting candles.
"Choose flame-retardant or non-combustible decorations and only use lights that have been tested and labelled by a certified testing laboratory," the fire commissioner said in a statement. "Consider energy-efficient LED lighting, which produces less heat and poses less of a fire risk."
The fire commissioner also warns against overloading electrical outlets and suggests having a "kid-free zone" that's at least one metre around the stove and areas where hot food or drinks are being prepared. It also suggests using candle holders that won't tip over easily or even using battery-operated candles as an alternative.
More than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles, and more than two of every five decoration fires happen because of decorations placed too close to a heat source, according to the National Fire Protection Association. It's also important to water real Christmas trees regularly to ensure they don't dry out.
"They're extremely flammable because they're well-spaced within. There's lots of airflow," said Jonathan Gormick with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services. "It's essentially a big hunk of kindling."
Gormick recommends watering the tree daily as soon as you get it until you throw it away after Christmas.
"If the tree is still in your home, keep it watered. Just because the holiday's over doesn't mean it stops being flammable, so keep it watered right until the day that it goes into the wood chipper for recycling."
Gormick says in addition to having new "combustibles" in homes like trees and decorations, there are also new sources of ignition like lights, extra electrical appliances, extension cords and power bars.
"It's a pretty bad combination if people aren't cautious," he said. "Thankfully, the transition away from candles and incandescent lights is really helpful for power consumption, but LEDs generate very, very little heat."
Some of his other decorating safety tips include not running cords underneath carpets, using cords that are rated appropriately for their purpose and using outdoor cords if decorating outside.
Other holiday tips from the fire commissioner include:
• Check to ensure working smoke detectors are installed on every level of your home and outside each area where people are sleeping.
• Test and clean smoke detectors and change the batteries at least twice a year.
• Don't block exits with decorations.
• Have a fire escape plan with at least two ways out of the home.
• Blow out candles when you leave a room or go to bed.
• Stay in the kitchen while you're cooking and turn off the stove if you leave the room.