Tips for Preventing House Fires - MetroFamily Magazine
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Tips for Preventing House Fires

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Winter is here and while the holiday season is a time of festive fun, it also presents a lot of house fire dangers. The Paul Silverstein Burn Center at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center and the American Red Cross are offering Oklahoma City residents some important tips for staying safe this season. 


It's easy to forget that the lovely candles used in thousands of homes during the winter holidays are ignition materials too. To keep your holidays safe, candles should be used by adults only, and used with care. December is the most dangerous month for candle fires, with almost twice the number of home candle fires of an average month. Christmas is the peak day, followed by New Year's Day and Christmas Eve.

For a safer holiday season:

  • Keep candles, along with all ignition materials, out of the reach of children.
  • Never leave a room with a candle still burning.
  • Declare all bedrooms "no candle" zones. Forty-one percent of the home candle fires reported from 1999-2001 started in bedrooms, and a mattress or bedding was the first item ignited in 26% of home candle fire deaths.
  • Keep candles well away from any items that can catch fire, including cloth, books, paper, curtains, Christmas tree, and decorations. During December, decorations are the leading item first ignited during candle fires.
  • Place candles in sturdy holders, away from spots where they could be knocked over by children or pets.
  • Keep exits clear of decorations. Be sure everyone in your home knows your fire escape routes and that there is nothing blocking these exits.


  • Tree stands must be adequately sized to hold the tree in an upright position to avoid tipping over.
  • Tree stands should be contain a two-day minimum supply of water, covering the stem at least 2 inches
  • Never let the water level recede below the cut end of the tree.
  • Don't use any additives in the tree water.


  • Bulbs should not be larger than the 3-5 volt type.
  • The number of light sets that can be connected together must be consistent with manufacturer's guidelines.
  • When connecting light sets from different manufactures, the most restrictive guidelines shall be used.
  • Each connected set of lights shall be on a separate circuit. Use only extension cords with overcurrent protection.


  • All decorative trim must be a flame resistant material or be treated with a flame retardant product.
  • Additional decorations surrounding the tree and not a part of the tree must be carefully placed to avoid sources of heat, such as light bulbs or heater vents.
  • Combustible decorations such as straw, hay or other dry vegetation must be treated with a flame retardant solution before use.


Remember, when setting up holiday decorations and Christmas trees; be careful where they are placed. Don't conceal or obstruct access to:

  • Exit Doors
  • Fire Extinguishers

The American Red Cross reports they respond to about 170 home fires a day in the U.S. That's one fire every eight seconds! They provide these tips to prevent home fires:

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Space heaters should sit on a level, hard surface and anything flammable should be kept at least three feet away.
  • If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.

Many fires begin on or around the kitchen stove. People should remain in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Other cooking safety steps include:

  • Stay in the home while simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food. Check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that food is cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire—like pot holders, towels, plastic and clothing— away from the stove.
  • Keep pets off cooking surfaces and countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

For additional safety, it's important to install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas.

  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
  • Check monthly that smoke alarms are working properly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year.
  • Replace smoke alarms every ten years.

Making sure all members of the household know what to do during a fire is one of the most important steps people can take to stay safe. Everyone should know two ways to escape from every room of the home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from the home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothing should catch on fire.

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