Practice fire safety during the holiday season
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — People and their activities cause more than 90 percent of wildfires in Texas. This holiday season, Texas A&M Forest Service urges everyone to be careful when participating in seasonal activities that could start a wildfire or house fire. One spark can ruin a holiday.
“Across the country, the most home fires occur in December and January. Also, ten percent of all firework fires for the year occurs from December 30 through January 3. For your safety, it is important that you take the time to follow winter holiday safety tips,” said Bruce Woods, Texas A&M Forest Service Prevention & Mitigation department head.
Holiday house fires
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), while Christmas tree fires are rare, when they do occur, they are often deadly. Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires per year started by Christmas trees. On average, one out of every 52 Christmas tree fires results in death.
In almost half of all Christmas tree fires, electrical problems are the primary cause. Be sure to purchase lights that are UL (Underwriters Laboratory) rated interior lights and water your tree every day. A well-watered tree burns at a much slower rate compared to a dried-out tree, which can burn in less than one minute.
When preparing holiday dinners, keep in mind: Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are two of the leading days for home cooking fires—second only to Thanksgiving Day.
The danger doesn’t end just because the holidays are over. In Texas, careless debris burning causes the most significant number of human-caused wildfires. Unsafe burning of wrapping paper, gift boxes, and Christmas trees after Christmas could spark outdoor fires.
Pay strict attention to outdoor fire safety precautions and consider recycling trees, rather than burning them. Christmas trees may be ground up for mulch or used to help stabilize dunes, encourage fish habitat in a lake or pond or provide shelter for birds and other wildlife.
Always check with local officials before burning debris and remember to burn responsibly. Keep your burn pile small and locate the collection at least 150 feet away from buildings. Have a water source within reach in case the fire escapes the pile. Stay with your fire until it is entirely out.
Another fire hazard during the holidays is firewood stacked too close to buildings. People often cure or dry wood, so it is easier to light in a fireplace. This drying process does not just make it easier to start a fire in the chimney—it makes it easier to burn anywhere. When firewood is stacked too close to a home, it can lead a wildfire right up to the structure. Keep firewood stacked at least 30 feet away from all structures.
“A stack of burning firewood can generate a lot of heat, and that heat can ignite the outside of a building or even radiate through single pane glass windows and ignite furnishing inside a house,” said Woods.
People often use fireworks to mark special events and holidays. When using fireworks during the holidays, don’t let your fun turn into flames. Check for local restrictions on burn bans and fireworks before use. Always have a water source nearby in case a fire ignites while using fireworks.
Practice fire safety while enjoying the outdoors
When hunting, be aware of any action that could cause a wildfire. Hot exhaust systems could ignite dry grass. Park only in designated areas or in areas free of anything that can catch fire. Your ammunition type matters when hunting; steel core and full metal jacket ammunition have the highest potential to start wildfires.
Campfires can be a great source of warmth and way of cooking this season. Locate a safe spot for your campfire, away from anything flammable and far from overhead hazards. Pile up rocks around your fire to help keep the wind out and fire embers inside. When you are done with your campfire, fully extinguish it. Drown, stir and feel the area for heat. Hold your hand just above the wet ashes–if you feel any residual warmth, continue to add water and stir.
Remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
For information on wildfire prevention, please visit the Texas A&M Forest Service website at http://tfsweb.tamu.edu.