It may be the season to be jolly, but it is also the season for holiday fires—from Christmas trees to decorations to electrical lights to candles, the holidays are rife with the potential for an accidental fire.
While frozen pipes contain one set of concerns for landlords during the winter, holiday fires contains another.
Whether you’re home for the holidays or social distancing, holiday dinners and decorations present an array of flammable flourishes. So much so that some landlords are beginning to add clauses into leases specifying approved decorations—banning Christmas trees and candle burning, common causes behind holiday blazes.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the winter can be a busy time of year for holiday fires:
- Christmas trees: Between 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
- Holiday decorations: U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 780 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2013-2017. These fires caused an annual average of three civilian fire deaths, 34 civilian fire injuries and $12 million in direct property damage.
- Candles: On average, 22 home candle fires were reported each day between 2013-2017, with two of the peak days being on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
- Holiday cooking: Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
- Fireworks: Ten percent of fireworks fires occur during the period from December 30 through January 3, with the peak on New Year’s Day.
How can I prevent holiday fires?
To help prevent holiday cheer from turning into holiday fear, some landlords have started including special clauses in their leases that ban live Christmas trees and certain decorations. One tenant, for example, says her landlord is afraid that a dried-out Christmas tree and the lights that typically don it are a holiday recipe for a disaster. Another common lease clause is a ban on burning candles. Fortunately, there are products like fake Christmas tree and flameless candles that can still help you partake in end-of-the-year festivities and decorations while minimizing potential holiday fires.
To understand what decorations are allowed in your rental, double-check your lease AND your renter’s insurance—know what you’re allowed to bring into your rental and what you’re liable for in case an accident does happen.
Accordingly, while you are preparing to deck the halls, light candles, go a-caroling (or a-wassailing), do some sleigh riding, or make snow angels, make sure you’re taking the property safety measures where holiday decor is concerned. To help prevent holiday fires, New York City’s Fire Department suggests the following:
- Choose fire-retardant artificial trees
- Choose an appropriately-sized tree for the room
- Test real trees for freshness
- Buy your tree early and keep it watered
- Place trees at least 3 feet away from heat sources (like fireplaces or heating vents)
- Provide adequate support for the tree
- Do not use electric lights on metallic trees
- Do not use lighted candles on or near the tree
- Try to use tree decorations made of flame-resistant materials
- Unplug the tree lights when out of the room, leaving the apartment, or going to sleep
Unfortunately, some holiday fires occur from cooking. If you experience a kitchen fire, be sure to be aware of whether or not grease or oil is involved. According to FireRescue1, if it is a grease or oil-related fire:
- DO NOT USE WATER TO TRY TO EXTINGUISH THE FLAMES
- Immediately cover the fire with a metal lid
- If it is a small fire, smother the flames with baking soda or salt
- Have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of emergency
Stay safe, and have a happy new year!