For most of us, the holiday season represents a time for family festivities and good cheer. What few of us consider is that the holiday season is a time when there is an increased risk of home fires. Christmas trees, candle usage and holiday decorations also significantly contribute to the seasonal causes of home fires. Add to that the hectic nature of the holidays, when people are trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time, and the chance for home fires grows even more.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” Brian Williams, Fire Chief of Webster Parish Fire District 7 said. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”
Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody.
“By taking some preventative steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented,” Public Education Officer Bob Callahan said.
Callahan said fire safety around the home always starts with at least one working smoke detector per level.
“That should include one in the hallway outside of each bedroom, or group of bedrooms, and one near the kitchen,” Williams added. Given that the chances of a home fire increase significantly during the holidays, Callahan and Williams recommend testing them now and replacing the batteries, if needed, before the holiday rush begins.
As unattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, staying in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food will prevent most kitchen fires. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time. If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking. Callahan also suggests creating a “kid-free zone” at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
Williams says to simply following the simple slogan, “Cook Low. Cook Slow.” can go a long way toward reducing the number of holiday kitchen fires experienced by the fire district.