Tis the Season to Practice Holiday Safety

Thursday, December 23, 2010 - 3:22am

Decorations are up, gifts are wrapped, and Santa is headed for your chimney. The City of Madison Fire Department reminds residents that the best way to enjoy the holiday season is to do it safely.

About one-third of all fires and home fire deaths occur in December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Although Christmas tree fires are uncommon, when they do occur, they are often serious; one out of every 21 reported Christmas tree fires results in a fatality. One-third of Christmas tree fires occurred in January.

That's because the longer Christmas trees are in the home, the more they dry out and become fire hazards. So in addition to keeping trees well hydrated, it's important to monitor the tree and dispose of it before it becomes dry enough to pose a hazard.
When it's time to take the tree down, get it outside and away from your house. In Madison, there are plenty of options for Christmas tree disposal through the Streets Division: http://www.cityofmadison.com/residents/winter/residents/tree.cfm

As you unplug and store electric holiday decorations, remember that practicing safety now can keep decorations in working condition and prevent potential hazards from occurring next year. Following are safety tips that can be used when putting away seasonal decorations:

• To unplug electric decorations, use the gripping area provided on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from electrical outlets. Doing so can harm the cord's wire and insulation and even lead to an electrical shock or fire.
• As you're putting away electrical light strings, take time to inspect each for damage. Throw out light sets if they have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
• Do not place a damaged set of lights back into the storage box for next year's use.
• Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap the lights around a piece of cardboard.
• Store electrical decorations in a dry place where they cannot be damaged by water or dampness. Also, keep them away from children and pets.

More than half of U.S. home heating fires happen in December, January and February. Heating equipment was involved in an estimated 66,100 reported home structure fires in 2008, causing 480 civilian deaths, 1,660 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. Just in the last month, numerous fire deaths have been recorded around the country as a result of improper use or malfunctioning of space heaters.

  • Lori Wirth, (608) 266-5947