As Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s celebrations approach, it’s a time of happy family get-togethers and parties, but it’s also a season that can sometimes lead to additional possibilities for residential fires. Every winter at this time, there are residential fires that experts say in many cases could have been avoided with some basic safety precautions.
When people are in celebration mode, with sometimes crowded parties, atmospheric candles and a lot of people having a good time together, it can be tricky to keep an eye on everything and everyone, and there can be an increased risk of fire.
It could start from a Christmas tree that has not been watered properly and has become dry, or it could come from candles or space heaters that have been left too close to flammable materials or a fireplace that does not have a proper screen.
To help make homeowners more aware of fire safety precautions, Toronto Fire Services is conducting an information campaign and has posted a helpful list of safety suggestions on the Fire Services website. The tips are a good reminder of simple things that we can all do to improve our safety at this time of year.
My team and I at Keller Williams Ottawa Realty (www.nancybenson.com) wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season.
Here are the tips offered by Toronto Fire Services:
- Don't leave small children alone in the home - even for a moment.
- Teach children to stay away from candles, fireplaces, trees and space heaters.
- Keep matches and lighters out of children's reach.
- Keep electric toys away from natural or artificial trees and paper decorations.
- When buying presents for children, check for flame retardancy labels.
- Natural trees
- Buy the freshest, greenest Christmas tree you can find.
- Trees that are too dry have brittle branches that shed needles easily.
- Test twigs and needles for flexibility. A dry tree will break, not bend.
- Store the tree outdoors, preferably in shade, until you're ready to use it.
- Cut one or two inches diagonally from the base of the tree.
Mount the tree securely in a large reservoir type stand that includes a water receptacle at the base to keep bottom of tree submerged in water.
- Add water each day, always keeping the water level of the reservoir above the cut.
- Keep the tree away from candles, fireplaces, heating vents, radiators, television sets, or other sources of heat.
- Make sure your tree doesn't block fire exits.
- Keep a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher on hand.
- Use decorations that are flame-resistant or non-combustible.
- Turn light strings off before you go to bed and when you leave the house.
- Discard the tree when it begins to turn brown or dry out.
- Artificial trees
- Artificial trees must have a fire-retardant label.
- Metal or aluminum trees are conductors of electricity. Don't decorate them with strings of lights or with any electrical product.
For detailed information on portable fire extinguishers and their use, visit the Toronto Fire Services fire extinguishers page.
Space heaters need space
- Space heaters must have a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) label.
- Keep portable and space heaters at least 1 metre (3 feet) away from anything combustible including paper, drapes, loose clothes furniture, bedding and wallpaper.
- Never place clothes on a heater to dry.
- Avoid leaving heaters on when you leave the house or go to bed.
- Keep children well away from heaters.
- Indoor lights
- Examine light strings for wear or damage each year before re-using them. Replace worn sets.
- Before replacing burnt out lights, unplug the light string.
- Unplug all decorative lighting before you go to bed or leave your home.
- Only use light strings, bulb reflectors, electrically lit decorations and extension cords that bear a CSA label and are marked for indoor use.
- Outdoor lights
- Only use CSA labelled light strings and cords that are marked for outdoor use.
- Turn off electricity to the outlet before working with outdoor wiring.
- Use insulated tape, not nails or tacks to hold strings of lights in place.
- Don't tape cords over, under, or along metal eaves troughs.
- Run all outdoor cords above ground, keeping them out of puddles and snow.
- To prevent moisture from entering bulb sockets, turn the bulbs to face the ground.
- Have a professional inspect and clean your chimney at least once a year.
- Always use a fire screen.
- Burn only materials appropriate for a fireplace.
- Never burn trash or paper - burning paper can fly out your chimney.
- Put ashes in metal containers and never store them in your home.
- Always stand candles in stable, non-tip candle holders before you light them.
- Keep candles away from combustible decorations and displays.
- Never leave candles burning unattended or within reach of pets or small children.
- Extinguish candles by wetting their wicks before you leave a room or before going to sleep.
- Use flame-retardant or non-combustible decorations and costumes.
- Set up a designated smoking area outside with large, deep ashtrays, and soak the butts with water before dumping them in the trash.
- Ask smokers to take it outside to reduce the risk of indoor fires and protect people from being exposed to harmful second-hand smoke.
- Smokers need watchers. Before going to sleep, check under and around sofa cushions and upholstered furniture for smouldering cigarettes.
When purchasing electrical appliances and fixtures look for a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) seal of approval. This is your assurance that the CSA has tested the product for shock and fire hazards. Only CSA tested and listed electrical appliances and fixtures are permitted in Ontario.
When purchasing fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, look for an Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC) label. This is your assurance that the ULC has tested the equipment and it will perform satisfactorily provided you use and install it according to the manufacturer's specifications.
In case of fire or an emergency, call 9-1-1.