Holiday Fire Safety

Holiday Fire Safety

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department sincerely hopes for all citizens and residents to enjoy a festive and fire safe Holiday Season. Traditionally, this is a time of the year when families and friends gather for food, fun, and festivities in celebration of the season. Over the years, the Fire/EMS Department has seen joyous occasions turn quickly into tragedies. The Holiday Season should not negate the practice of good, common sense fire safety and injury prevention habits.

Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 250 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 170 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires resulted in 21 deaths and 43 injuries

According to the NFPA, about four of every ten holiday tree-related residential fires are caused by an electrical problem or malfunction. One out of every four, or twenty-four percent, holiday tree-related residential fires are the result of a heat source placed too close to the tree.

Prince George’s County Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor stated, “Holiday decorations can be enjoyed safely if citizens and residents follow guidelines and recommendations for fire safety and injury prevention.”

Safety Tips for Holiday Decorations

Try to select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needles of pines and spruces should bend, not break, and should be difficult to pull off the branches.

Cut off about two inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly. 

This NFPA video demonstrates the difference in a tree that has not been well maintained and is dried out and a well maintained tree that has been watered appropriately.

Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways.

Choose electric decorations that are tested and labeled as fire resistant. Electric decorations and artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label. Inspect your previously used decoration carefully, checking for broken wiring, plugs or sockets.

Use no more than three light sets connected to each other.

Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs or furniture.

Turn off and unplug all electric decorations at night and when away.

Never leave candles unattended and NEVER use real candles on your tree.

Install and maintain a working smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every bedroom.

Purchase and install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home.

Winter Fire Safety and Injury Prevention- Staying Warm
Home Heating Fire Safety - Check your hotspots!

Statistically, the cold winter months are the busiest for firefighters. The leading causes of fires during this time of year are related to citizens and residents trying to stay warm at home. Popularity of space heaters and the use of fire places have increased as residents seek alternative, less expensive, ways of staying warm. That equates to a busier than normal season for firefighters. Fireplaces and space heaters can make a room toasty, but the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department urges citizens and residents to “think fire-safety first,” and exercise caution when using these devices. Acting Fire Chief Bashoor reminds everyone that, “The most effective way to fight a fire is to prevent it from ever happening.”

On Sunday, December 5, 2010, a Largo, MD, family learned the hard way about disposal of hot ashes from their fireplace. The resident improperly stored fireplace ashes on the balcony of their second floor condo. It did not take long for the ashes to re-ignite and start a fire. The fire was quickly extinguished and damage was limited to the balcony.  When disposing of ashes and embers from your fireplace, residents should know that these items can continue to remain hot for an extended period of time. Dispose of your fireplace ashes in a sturdy metal container and allow them to cool down for 24-48 hours. Do not place the disposal container on any combustible surface (wooden decks, grass, etc) and keep them at least 30-feet away from any structure.

Additional Fire Safety and Injury Prevention Tips

Consider using a newer model space heater that has safety devices built-in.

Give space heaters space - use a 3-foot distance between the space heater and any materials that could ignite.

Have furnaces and fireplaces clean and in good working order. It is recommended to have chimneys cleaned and furnaces inspected annually.

Consider the gift of a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm for the Holidays. No other gift sends the message that says, “I care for you and want you to stay safe.” The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department will install a smoke alarm in your home, free of charge. Please call our Smoke Alarm Hotline at 301-864-SAFE.