---- — LONDONDERRY — The holiday season is a happy time for family gatherings and good cheer.
It’s also a time when more home fires can start due to accidents with candles, cooking and other seasonal causes.
The Londonderry Fire Department urges everyone to play it safe this season while enjoying the holidays.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” Fire Marshal Brian Johnson of the Londonderry Fire Department said. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”
With a little common sense and awareness, he said, residents can stay safe this season by making some holiday adjustments to decorating and cooking.
“By taking some preventative steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented,” Johnson said.
Unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires and injuries in the U.S. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so by keeping anything that could catch fire away from the stove, families can stay safe.
Turn off the stove when no one is nearby and check food regularly that is being cooked.
Londonderry fire officials also urge people to create a “kids-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are being prepared or carried.
Candles are also popular during the holidays and December is a peak month for home candle fires.
The nonprofit National Fire Protection Associations statistics show more than half of all candle fires start because the candle had been lighted too close to things that could catch fire.
People should consider using flameless candles, but if traditional candles are used, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn and always remember to blow them out when leaving the room.
Make sure candles are also secure in sturdy holders that won’t tip over. Avoid using candles in the bedroom; two out of every five candle fires begin where people may fall asleep. Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.
Fire departments also respond to fires caused by Christmas trees, with faulty electrical connections or a heat source placed too close to a tree.
When using a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and add plenty of water daily. Don’t allow trees to block an exit and keep it at least 3 feet away from any heat source. Never use candles on a tree.
Artificial trees should always be labeled as fire-retardant. Tree lights should also be labeled and designed for indoor or outdoor use.
Always turn tree lights off when leaving the home or going to bed. Get rid of the live tree after the holidays.
Johnson said everyone can have a safe holiday season by remembering some simple rules.
“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” he said. “By taking simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards and make this time a healthy and happy one.”
For more information on fire safety at the holidays, visit nfpa.org/holiday.