Christmas holiday most common time for home fires, officials say

Uncle Lewis learned the hard way that cigars and Christmas trees don't mesh well. Photo: Warner Bros.
Uncle Lewis learned the hard way that cigars and Christmas trees don’t mesh well. Photo: Warner Bros.

Between the lights, fireplaces and busy kitchens, it should come as no surprise that Massachusetts fire officials claim Christmas Eve and Day have more home fires than other days of the year.

To reduce the risk of a fire ruining the holiday, experts have offered a few safety tips:

“Start by making sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan. “Fires are always terrible but they seem worse during the festive holiday season,” said State Fire Marshal Coan.

Cooking is the leading cause

Coan 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. He added, “Cooking is the leading cause of home fires throughout the year, and caused two-thirds of all the residential fires last holiday season.” When baking use a timer and stay nearby.

Cooking fires occurred last December in Leicester and Beverly when items were left too close to the burners. Unattended cooking caused fires in Springfield and Gloucester.

Pay attention to heating systems and fireplaces

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.” A single ember can stay hot undetected for days.

On December 30, 2012, at 12:22 a.m., a fire in a single-family Brookline home started when fireplace ashes had been put into a paper bag on the front porch earlier in the evening. Firefighters discovered that the front porch was fully involved and spreading to the home and two nearby cars. Smoke alarms worked; there were no sprinklers; and no one was injured. Damages from this fire were estimated at $85,000.

Burn candles within a footlong “circle of safety”

State Fire Marshal Coan said, “Many of the holidays celebrated at this time of year use candles. Sadly, the increased candle use at this time of year causes a boost in candle fires.” Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are among the December days when the most candle fires occur.

Christmas Tree safety

Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and a heat source too close to the tree caused roughly one in every six. Fortunately there were no Christmas tree fires in Massachusetts last year.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



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