Clark County fire and building officials are reminding residents to use extra care over the holiday season to prevent home fires.
"We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season, but it's important to remember that there are some fire hazards more likely to occur this time of year," said Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell. "Cooking-related fires and fires caused by candles definitely tend to increase."
Cooking, in fact, is the leading cause of home fires locally and nationally, and the incidence of cooking fires increases over major holidays. Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and New Year's Day are the top three days of the year in the United States for candle-related fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Holiday decorations also can pose hazards.
"Holiday decorations need to be placed a safe distance from fireplaces or other heat sources," said Building & Fire Code Official Jerry Steuve, director of Clark County's Department of Building & Fire Prevention. "You also want to inspect light strings and replace any damaged items before plugging them in."
Clark County officials offer these holiday safety tips:
Candle Care – Remember: December is the peak time of year for home candle fires
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, including drapery and table clothes. More than half of all candle fires start when things that can burn are too close to the candle.
- Place candles in stable holders, on uncluttered surfaces, where they cannot be easily knocked down by children or pets.
- Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. About one-third, 37 percent, of home candle fires are started in bedrooms.
- Beware of using candles for light. The risk of fatal candle fires appears higher when candles are used for light. Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during power outages.
- Store matches and lighters out of reach of children.
Holiday Lights & Decorations
- Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive wear before putting them up.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
- Limit use of extension cords to temporary uses. They should not serve as a permanent power source for any appliance or stationary device.
- Never run extension cords under rugs or furniture.
- Do not overload electrical outlets. Read manufacturer's instructions for the number of light strands to connect, usually no more than three.
- Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Never dispose of wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can result in a very large fire, throwing off sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
- Place Christmas trees away from fireplaces, heaters and other heat sources.
- Select a fresh tree. Needles should be green and should not break off easily. The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
- Keep your tree in water through the entire season so it doesn't dry out; check water levels often.
- If you are using an artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. Christmas tree fires are rare, but when they occur they tend to be serious; more than 25 percent are caused by electrical problems.
Cooking & Holiday Entertaining
- Don't leave cooking food unattended; always supervise children in cooking areas.
- Keep flammable materials – such as oven mitts, utensils, wrappers and towels – away from the stove.
- Every kitchen should have a working, multi-purpose fire extinguisher with an ABC rating.
- Don't forget to turn off your oven, fryer, barbecue and stove-top burners.
- Stay alert. If you are tired or consuming alcohol, don't cook because you are more likely to make mistakes.
- If you or your guests smoke, provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding, or flush them down the toilet.
- After a party, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
- Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).
- Make sure your smoke detectors are operational.