Hazardous Holiday Season

Sadly there were three serious house fires on Long Island last week.  Many homeowners are very concerned about fire hazards in their own home following these recent tragedies.  There are many hazards linked to the holiday season.

There is nothing more festive around the holidays than a live Christmas tree, gaily decorated with twinkling lights, the smell of pine filling the air.  It’s important to understand there are precautions that must be taken to prevent the unspeakable from happening as in just 30 seconds, a Christmas tree can fill a room with smoke and in a minute can burn down an entire living room.

Nassau County firefighters recently demonstrated how quickly a Christmas tree can explode into flames and fill an entire room with fire. On hand was veteran firefighter Paul Wilder whose mother’s Setauket home was destroyed by a Christmas tree fire two years ago. The fire was started by the family cat who chewed on the tree light wires, said Wilder.

U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 210 home fires per year caused by Christmas trees in 2010-2014. These fires caused an annual average of six deaths, 16 injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

How can you prevent a Christmas tree fire, and subsequent burn injuries, from happening in your home?

  1. Keep it Fresh. A fresh tree does not burn easily. Do a freshness test on pre-cut trees by gently grasping a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pulling it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s important to water your Christmas tree every day because a dry one can catch fire and burn faster than a newspaper.
  3. Get Rid of Your Tree Sooner, Not Later. Approximately 40 percent of home fires ignited by Christmas trees are in January, when the tree has begun to dry out.
  4. Use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory like the Underwriters Lab (UL). One out of every three Christmas tree fires are related to electrical problems, reports the U.S. Fire Administration. Do NOT connect more than the maximum number of lights strands recommended by the manufacturer. Check each strand for damage and throw out those that may have loose connections, broken sockets, or cracked wires. Never use outdoor lights on your tree. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. In addition, be sure the electrical outlets you are using are not overworked.
  5. Heat Sources. Be sure to keep your tree at least three feet away from heat sources. A heat source too close to the tree causes one in every four Christmas tree fires, says the U.S. Fire Administration.

It’s not just Christmas trees that present a potential hazard. December is the peak time of the year for home candle fires. For those who celebrate Chanukah, consider replacing real candles with battery-operated ones, which look, smell, and feel like the real thing without the risk. Also, don’t leave candles unattended or placed on a mantle with decorations around them.

If you, or someone you care about has been injured in a holiday, or any mishap, contact Rosenberg & Gluck, Nassau County personal injury attorneys, for a free, confidential legal consultation to learn more about your options.