Reduce the fire risk in your home or apartment this month by following the experts’ advice on candles, Christmas tree lights and — that perennial danger — cooking.
Kitchen mishaps are the leading cause of residential fires in December, typically accounting for more than 40 percent of blazes during this holiday-heavy season, according to statistics compiled by the National Fire Data Center. In fact, two of the top three days for cooking fires are fast approaching: Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
Keep that in mind during meal preparation for your upcoming parties and family gatherings, plus those marathon cookie baking sessions.
Don’t allow visitors or festivities to distract you from the task. Don’t wander away from the kitchen if you are frying, broiling or grilling food. Don’t leave the house while turkeys, hams or other fare are roasting, baking or simmering. Maintain a safe distance between hot burners (or other heating sources) and objects that could ignite: oven mitts, cookbooks, aprons, wooden spoons and tea towels.
If you made it through Thanksgiving without a smoke-producing oven or stovetop incident, congratulations. It’s the most active day for kitchen fires, at about three times the average, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The association’s “Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment” report, released last month and compiled using statistics from 2007 to 2011, states that “cooking is the third leading cause of home fire deaths.”
Cooking ranks as the number one cause of fire injuries.
That said, you also should be aware of the perils posed to health and home by other seasonal factors and traditions. Among them: heating devices, faulty electrical cords and unattended candles.
To spare yourself property damage or an even greater tragedy, read and abide by safety tips like those found here and on the National Fire Protection Association’s web pages (www.nfpa.org/winter/).
Share information about December’s top fire dangers with your family members, neighbors and friends, too. It might be one of the most important gifts you give.
• Turn off the stove when leaving the kitchen.
• Set a timer to remind you that food is cooking. If frying, stay by the stove.
• Establish a “child-free zone” of about 3 feet around the stove and any areas where hot food and drinks are being prepared or handled.
• Ensure furnaces are regularly cleaned and fireplace chimneys kept free of creosote.
• Place kerosene and other space heaters a safe distance from bedding, furniture, clothing and other combustible materials.
• Consider using battery-operated or electric candles instead of those with a flame.
• If opting for traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
• Extinguish candles when you leave the room. Do not leave children alone in a room with a burning candle.
• Don’t use lit candles in a bedroom or other sleeping area, where, authorities say, about two out of five candle fires begin.
• If displaying a fresh-cut Christmas tree indoors, water it daily.
• Don’t position a tree so that it blocks an exit; the tree should be at least 3 feet away from any heat source: space heater, fireplace, radiators, vents or lights.
• Always turn off tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.