Holiday Fire Safety

Lambton Shores Fire and Emergency Services crest

The holiday season is a joyful time to celebrate with friends and family, but it can also become a time where we let our guards down and the risk of fire increases. A careless mistake could lead to a horrible turn of events for your festivities.

That's why Lambton Shores Fire and Emergency Services invites the community to join them in the 12 Days of Holiday Fire Safety campaign. The annual campaign highlights 12 important tips to keep in mind over the holiday season to help keep you and your family safe.

12 Days of Holiday Fire Safety

Day 1: Water fresh trees daily

Using a real tree? It's time to trim it! And if you're going out to buy a real tree, buy a fresh tree and make sure you keep the base of the trunk in water at all times. Always keep your tree away from all ignition sources, such as the fireplace, heaters, or candles.

More Christmas tree safety tips:

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant". Although this label does not mean the tree is fireproof, it does indicate that it will resist burning and should extinguish quickly
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness: it will be green, the needles will be hard to pull out and don't break when bent between your fingers, and the trunk butt will be sticky with resin
  • When setting up the tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure your tree stand is always filled with water
  • When you're ready to get rid of your tree, please do not burn it in the fireplace or wood stove. The rapid burning and excessive heat can damage the firebox and chimney creating a serious hire hazard. Instead, use the Lambton Shores tree drop-off program - it's free!

Day 2: Check all sets of lights before decorating

Before you put up all those lights on the tree or your house, check the cords carefully. If you find any cords frayed or damaged, do not use them.

More lights and electrical safety tips:

  • Indoors or outside, always use CSA approved lights. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bared wires, or loose connections. If they're damaged, throw them out
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord
  • 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
  • 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. Alternatively, run the string of lights through hooks
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire while you're away or asleep
  • For added electric-shock proof protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)

Day 3: Make sure you have working smoke alarms

With family and friends spending extra time at your home over the holidays, it's a great time to check your smoke alarms. Remember that you need working smoke alarms on every storey of your home and outside all sleeping areas. Test your alarms to make sure they will alert you and your family if a fire occurs, giving you the precious seconds needed to escape safely.

Other important information on smoke alarms:

  • Replace smoke alarms if they are over 10 years old
  • Smoke rises: this means you should place smoke alarms on the ceiling. Avoid ceilings near bathrooms, heating appliances, windows, and ceiling fans
  • Always install the smoke alarm in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions
  • Dust can clog a smoke alarm, so gently vacuum alarms every six months using a soft brush. Never vacuum electrically connected alarms unless you shut off the power. Always test your unit after cleaning

Day 4: Make sure you have working carbon monoxide alarms  

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless gas that can quickly kill you. Replace any carbon monoxide alarms over seven years old. Installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home will alert you to the presence of this deadly gas.

Where does carbon monoxide come from? It is produced when carbon-based fuels are incompletely burned, such as:

  • Wood
  • Propane
  • Natural Gas
  • Heating Oil
  • Coal
  • Kerosene
  • Charcoal
  • Gasoline

In your home, sources of carbon monoxide can include:

  • Wood burning/gas stoves
  • Gas refrigerators
  • Gasoline engines
  • Kerosene heaters
  • Furnace

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in or as near as possible to sleeping areas in the home.

Day 5: Make sure everyone knows how to get out safely if a fire occurs

Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with all members of the household and make sure someone helps young children, older adults, or anyone else that may need assistance to evacuate. Once outside, call 9-1-1 from a cell phone or neighbours house.

Here are some tips when developing your fire escape plan:

  1. Draw a floor plan of your home
  2. Mark two ways out of every room, especially sleeping areas
  3. Discuss the escape routes and agree on a meeting place outside
  4. Practice your escape plan (at least twice a year)

You can also use this Escape Plan Template.

Day 6: Use extension cords wisely

People often use extension cords for that extra set of lights or the dancing Santa in the front yard. Extension cords should be used only as a temporary connection. When inside, make sure cords never go under rugs: this can cause damage to the cord and cause a fire.

Day 7: Give space heaters space

If you are using space heaters to help take the chill off, remember to keep them at least one metre (3 feet) away from anything that can burn (curtains, upholstery, holiday decorations, etc.)

Here are some other heating safety tips:

  • Have a one metre (3 feet) "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters
  • Never use your oven to heat your home
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters
  • If you use a wood burning fireplace:
    • Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrapping paper can ignite suddenly and burn intensely
    • Never burn boxes, cartons or other types of packaging. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat
    • Don't hang stockings from the mantel when the fireplace is in use
    • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against sparks
    • Use only seasoned and dried wood
    • Clean ashes regularly. Put them in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials
    • DO NOT use Christmas trees for firewood

Day 8: When you go out, blow out

Candles can set the perfect mood for a holiday celebration. It can also send amazing scents throughout the house to get you in the holiday spirit. But remember: always blow them out before leaving the room or going to bed. Always keep lit candles away from children, pets, and anything that can burn.

More candle safety tips:

  • Place candles in sturdy, burn-resistant containers that won't tip over
  • Don't place candles near windows, where blinds or curtains can close or blow over them
  • Do not let candles burn out completely. Extinguish them when they get within two inches of the holder or decorative material
  • Keep candle wicks short: one-quarter inch (6.4mm)
  • Choose battery-operated candles instead of traditional flame candles

Day 9: Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children

People often keep matches and lighters handy to light candles. But matches and lighters can be deadly in the wrong hands (children!). Be sure you store matches and lighters away from children, like in drawers or cupboards out of their reach.

Day 10: Watch what you heat

The holiday season can be incredibly busy, and we all get distracted when we're busy. Cooking fires most commonly occur when cooking is left unattended. Always stay in the kitchen when cooking, especially if using oil or high temperatures.

Do you know what to do if a pot catches fire? Carefully slide a tight-fitting lid over the pot to smother the flames and then turn off the heat.

What about grease and fat fires? Did you know they are a leading cause of home fires in Canada? Here's what to do if grease in a pot or pan catches fire:

  1. Smother the flame by covering the pan with a lid. Do not remove the lid until the pan is completely cooled
  2. Turn off the heat immediately
  3. Use baking soda (NOT FLOUR) on shallow grease fires
  4. Never turn on the overhead fan, as it can spread the fire
  5. NEVER throw water on a grease fire

More kitchen safety tips:

  • Sleepy or consumed a few boozy holiday beverages? Stick with chips and salsa: don't use the stove or stovetop
  • Have a "kid-free zone" of at least 3 feet around the stove and cooking areas

Day 11: Smoke outside

Careless smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires. The easiest solution is to have smokers go outside to smoke.

If you allow smoking indoors, use large, deep ashtrays that can't be knocked over. Always make sure cigarette butts are properly extinguished.

Day 12: Be responsible with alcohol or cannabis

With all the festive cheer this time of year, please make sure your holiday celebrations are safe when it comes to alcohol and cannabis use. NEVER let someone under the influence of alcohol or cannabis drive, and keep a close eye on anyone attempting to cook while under the influence of alcohol or cannabis.

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