Fires during the holiday season kill many hundreds of people and cause millions of dollars of property damage each year. Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires. Christmas trees alone account for 200 fires annually. Here are steps you can take to safely stay warm and festive this year.

Cooking Care

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food
  • Check your food regularly if you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food and use a timer to remind you
  • Keep items that can catch fire away from your stovetop - paper plates, napkins, towels, etc.
  • Have baking soda and a current fire extinguisher available. Water should not be used on oil fires

Christmas Tree Care

  • Select a tree with a trunk that is sticky to the touch and green needles that don't break off when you pull them back from the branches
  • Keep your Christmas tree watered at all times
  • Place your tree as far away as possible from any heat source, including heat vents and fireplaces
  • Never put lit candles on a tree
  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove
  • Don't go near a Christmas tree with an open flame, such as a lit candle, lighter or match
  • If you are using an artificial tree, make sure it's flame retardant

Holiday Decorating Care

  • Don't overload electrical outlets. Don't link more than three light strands, unless the directions state it's safe
  • Inspect holiday lights for frayed wires, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear
  • Turn off and unplug your holiday lights when no one is home
  • Use only nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations and keep them away from heat sources, such as fireplaces and heat vents
  • Keep candles in stable holders. Never leave the house with candles burning
  • Many new decorations are electric or battery-powered rather than using an open flame

General Home Fire Prevention Care

  • Be sure to check your homeowner's insurance policy for fire coverage
  • Place ashes from your fireplace in a metal container outside your home
  • Get your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected. Some areas off free initial cleanings
  • Check heating vents and water heater pipes for obstructions. Insect, bird and animal nests in pipes can cause carbon monoxide buildup
  • Install smoke alarms, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries
  • Know when and how to call for help
  • Have a home escape plan and practice it

These may seem like basic reminders, but when people are busy talking and watching TV, things can get out of hand.

Remember to cook with care and decorate with caution so your holiday season is a joyous one.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Is the property damage to my home that was caused by a cooking fire covered under my homeowners insurance if I was drinking while cooking and left food under the broiler unattended?
  • Is the property damage to my home that was caused by an overloaded electrical outlet covered by my homeowners insurance, if I followed the manufacturer's instructions and had only three strings of lights connected to each other?
  • Can I sue the manufacturer of my home smoke alarm if the alarm had new batteries but didn't go off during a fire in my home?

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