Seasonal Fire Safety Tips

Seasonal Fire Safety Tips

December 07, 2017

The holidays are here! While it is a time for festive fun with family, it's also important to be mindful of fire safety in during the holiday season. Be sure to keep these Holiday Fire Safety Tips handy.


Holiday Tree Safety Tips

  • When shopping for an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Since heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Tree disposal after the holidays: When you're ready to get rid of your live tree, do not leave it in the hallway or stairwell of your apartment building or in front of the doorway blocking the way in and out in the event of a fire or other emergency. Instead, find out from the City of Toronto the day when trees will be picked at the curbside or building. Many municipalities recycle Christmas trees into mulch.

Lights and Electrical

  • Use indoor lights inside the home and outdoor lights outside the home.
  • Indoors or outside, always use CSA approved lights. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Never connect LED to conventional lights; this is likely to wear out LED bulbs more rapidly and could pose a fire or electrical hazard.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Never overload extension cords. 
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place, or run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all lights when you go to sleep or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • For added electric-shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

Decorations

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or non-leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
  • Do NOT put decorations in an area that will block or interfere with an exit or exit route. 
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked over.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

Candles

  • Extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep. Keep lit candles away from items that can catch fire.
  • Place candles in sturdy, burn-resistant containers that won't tip over and are big enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Don't place lit candles near windows, where blinds or curtains may close or blow over them.
  • Don't use candles in high traffic areas where children or pets could knock them over.
  • Never let candles burn out completely. Extinguish them when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in a room with lit candles.
  • Do not allow older children to light candles in their bedrooms. A forgotten candle or an accident is all it takes to start a fire.
  • During power outages, exercise caution when using candles as a light source. Many destructive fires start when potential fire hazards go unnoticed in the dark.
  • Keep candle wicks short at all times. Trim the wick to one-quarter inch (6.4 mm).
  • Be wary of buying novelty candles. Avoid candles surrounded by flammable paint, paper, dried flowers, or breakable/meltable containers.
  • Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they burn to within two inches of the holder, and container candles before the last half-inch of wax begins to melt.
  • When buying or using novelty candles, try to determine if they pose a potential fire hazard (if they contain a combustible component for instance). If they do, or if you suspect that they might, inform your local fire department.
  • Use extreme caution when carrying a lit candle, holding it well away from your clothes and anything along your path that may catch fire.

Heating

  • Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace or a portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • Be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition.
  • Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified.
  • Keep trash and other items that may ctach fire away from the heating system.

In the Kitchen

  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don't use the stove or stovetop.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.  Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly.
  • Remain in your home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Wear short or close-fitting sleeves to avoid clothes catching fire.
  • Turn pot or pan handles inward to prevent burns caused by overturned pots.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Have a "kid-free zone" of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

Grease and fat fires are a leading cause of home fires in Canada, so be extra careful when doing this kind of cooking. Here's what to do if grease in a pot or pan catches fire:

  • Smother the flames by covering the pan with a lid. Do not remove the lid until the pan is completely cooled.
  • Turn off the heat immediately.
  • Use baking soda (flour can be explosive) on shallow grease fires.
  • Never turn on the overhead fan, as this could spread the fire.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire.

Visit our 12 Days of Fire Safety page to learn more safety tips for the holiday season.