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Fire prevention: The gift that keeps on giving

Dec. 18, 2017

Photo of candles.
Photo: Decorating, heating, and cooking all happen at the holidays, but present their own safety risks. Flameless candles are just one way to make your home festive and inviting for the holidays while cutting down on the risk of fires.

No really, it’ll be great: The whole family will gather at your house for a holiday dinner and you’ll all have a great time. But before everyone comes over, there’s a lot to be done, including buying fresh candles, cooking the roast, and laying a fire in the fireplace.

Oh, and testing your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Because those three to-dos mentioned above? They also happen to be three of the leading causes of fires in Minnesota, especially around the holidays. Think about it: You spend a lot more time indoors in the winter, which means you have to heat your house. You might decorate it, too, with flammable things like Christmas trees and colorful paper, not to mention the open flames on pretty candles. And then there’s the cooking.

For that last point, there’s an easy way to remember the most important safety tip: Look while you cook. In other words, stay in the kitchen while anything is cooking on the stove. If you have to leave the room, turn off the burner and move the pan off it. Have something in the oven? Take a timer with you so your meal doesn’t burn. While you’re at it, make sure anything flammable is three feet from the stove—kitchen towels and potholders are common culprits.

Where holiday decorating is concerned, you don’t have to scrap the idea of decking the halls with boughs of holly; you just have to be smart about it. Water your Christmas tree daily – a Christmas tree fire can actually be explosive, starting your entire home on fire in a matter of minutes. And although candles are lovely, those opens flames can be dangerous. Replace them with flameless candles instead.

So now your house looks lovely and is full of delicious cooking smells…but you have to heat it. Have your chimney inspected before you use it every year, and never leave a fire unattended in the fireplace. Likewise, make sure space heaters are plugged directly into the wall (not an extension cord or power strip) and are three feet from anything flammable like couches, towels, or bedding. And if you haven’t already, have your heater or boiler inspected, and put it on your calendar for next year, too.

Sometimes all the careful precautions in the world can’t keep a fire from starting or an appliance from malfunctioning and leaking carbon monoxide – and that’s where your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms come in. You should have one on every floor and outside every sleeping area. Test them once a month, and replace the batteries every six months.

So once you’re done with your safety preparations, let your family ooh and aah over the beautiful holiday atmosphere you’ve created for them, knowing that they’ll not only be happy, but safe.