Fire safety tips for the holiday season

The Firefighter’s Association of the State of New York is reminding people about fire safety this holiday season — a time when home decorating includes candles, trees and lights.

“The holidays bring cheer, love and joy to New Yorkers each year,” FASNY President Edward Tase Jr. said in a Dec. 5 press release. “Unfortunately, it historically also brings an increase in home fires. Dry trees, unattended cooking and forgotten candles can all lead to tragedy. We want all New Yorkers to enjoy a safe and accident-free holiday.”

The National Fire Protection Association says that fire departments across the U.S. respond to an average of 160 home fires annually that started with Christmas trees, and an average of 7,900 home fires started by candles. From 2014 to 2018, fires caused by candles resulted in an annual average of 81 civilian fire deaths, 677 civilian fire injuries and $278 million in direct property damage per year.

New York has had the second-most home fire fatalities this year, with 126 deaths, following Pennsylvania with 141. At this time last year, New York had 102 home fire fatalities, the fifth-most in the nation.

Tase also encouraged people to be extra safe when introducing new gadgets into the home.

“Many gifts such as hoverboards, laptops, e-bikes, drones, and toys may contain hazardous lithium-ion batteries,” he said. “It is important to never leave a device with a lithium-ion battery unattended while charging, and if the battery appears damaged — do not use it!”

Fire risk can occur when these powerful batteries are improperly stored or charged, leading to overheating. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when charging and only use the charging cord that came with the device. If a battery is overheating or has stopped working, move the device away from flammable materials and safely dispose of it. It is not recommended that lithium-ion batteries be disposed of in household trash. Instead, take them to a battery recycling location.

Here are some holiday decorating tips from FASNY and the National Fire Protection Association:

– Choose holiday decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

– Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.

– Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.

– Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

– Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

– Keep decorations away from windows and doors.

– Fresh Christmas trees are less likely to catch fire, so look for a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don’t break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn’t be shedding its needles readily.

– Always place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid a dry out.

– Make sure all your indoor and outdoor Christmas lights have been tested in a lab by the UL or ETL/ITSNA for safety, and throw out any damaged lights.

– Any lights you use outdoors must be labeled suitable for exterior placement, and be sure to plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle.

– Keep all holiday candles away from your Christmas tree, surrounding furniture and dcor.

– Turn your Christmas tree lights off each night.

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