​Fire safety: The best holiday tradition

Dec. 20, 2021​

A dry Christmas tree and a watered Christmas tree afer a fire demo.
If you water your tree and it catches fire, it will look like the one on the right. If you don’t, it will look like the one on the left (and will probably take your home with it).

Ah, the holidays: Whether we have a house full of friends and family or we retreat to a little cabin in the woods, many of us do some combination of heating, cooking and lighting candles. Those three activities happen to be three of the leading causes of fires in Minnesota, especially around the holidays. Fortunately, if you add fire prevention to your holiday traditions, you can drastically lessen the likelihood that a fire truck will show up at your door along with Aunt Mae and her famous tater-tot hot dish.

No matter what you’re cooking, there’s an easy way to remember the most important cooking 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 combustible 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. If you use space heaters, plug them directly into the wall (not an extension cord or power strip); don’t sleep with them on; and keep them 3 feet from anything combustible like couches, towels or bedding. And if you haven’t already, have your furnace 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. A good rule of thumb is to do it when you change your clocks for daylight saving time.

So put fire prevention at the top of your list for holiday traditions. That way you and your family can enjoy all your other favorite traditions safely.