Many hallmarks of the holiday season, including Christmas trees, holiday decorations, cooking and baking, present potential fire hazards that contribute to an annual increase in U.S. home fires during the winter months. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are among the leading days of the year for home fires (topped only by Thanksgiving Day).
“December is a leading month for home fires, in large part because many of the activities we engage in during the holiday season reflect leading causes of home fires year-round,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.
Fortunately, Carli notes, the majority of winter fires can be prevented with a little added awareness and planning.
“By knowing where potential fire hazards exist and taking some basic safety precautions to prevent them, people can enjoy a festive, fire-free holiday season,” said Carli.
The NFPA Winter Holidays page offers a wide variety of tips and resources to reduce the risk of fires, while the latest NFPA statistics underscore the increased risk of fire during the holiday season:
• An estimated average of 790 home fires that began when decorations (other than Christmas trees) caught fire caused an average of one civilian death, 26 civilian injuries and $13 million in direct property damage per year between 2015 and 2019.
• One in five home decoration fires occurred in December.
• Year-round, 35% of home decoration fires began with candles; in December, the number jumped to 45 %.
• In more than two of every five fires (44%) involving decorations, the decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle, cooking or heating equipment.
• Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires (49%) and home fire injuries and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.
• Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires.
• Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
Fires caused by heating equipment, the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires year-round, peak during the winter months, when temperatures drop and more people use heating equipment to keep their homes warm. Put a Freeze on Winter Fires, an annual NFPA campaign with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), works to better educate the public about ways to stay safe during the colder months, offering tip sheets and other resources to help reduce the risk of heating fires and other winter hazards.