Christmas Is Second Busiest Day for Home Fires

STOW, MA — Fire officials urge people to make fire safety an important part of planning for their holiday celebrations because more home fires happen on December 25 than any other single day in Massachusetts except Thanksgiving.

“Firefighters are not the kind of guests you want during the winter holidays, so please make fire safety part of your celebrations,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “Start by making sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home,” he said.

Cooking Leading Cause

Ostroskey said, “Cooking is the leading cause of fires in the home and the holiday season is no exception. It is important to remember two key things: Stand by Your Pan to prevent cooking fires and to Put a Lid on It if one does occur.” “Leaving cooking unattended, even for a minute, is the leading cause of fires,” said Ostroskey. When baking, use a timer, and stay nearby.

  • On December 21, 2016, at 5:29 p.m., the Framingham Fire Department was called to a cooking fire in an apartment building. The fire was started when cooking oil on top of the stove ignited and extended to the cabinets. Smoke alarms were present and alerted the occupants and no one was injured at this fire. A single sprinkler head activated and extinguished the fire. The total estimated dollar loss was $8,000.
  • On Christmas Day 2016, at 8:00 a.m., the Brockton Fire Department was called to a cooking fire in a two-family home. The cause was arcing from the electric stove. The home had no smoke alarms or sprinklers but fortunately no one was injured. The estimated dollar loss was $20,000.

Heating Second Leading Cause of Holiday Season Fires

Heating is the second leading cause of home fires during the holiday season. “Keep warm and keep safe by having the furnace and chimney checked by professionals, and when heating with wood, dispose of the ashes in a lidded metal ashcan outside the home,” reminded Ostroskey. A single ember can stay hot and undetected for days. Use the three foot rule and keep combustibles, like holiday decorations, three feet away from heat sources.

  • On December 16, 2016, at 6:22 a.m., the Holliston Fire Department was called to a heating fire in a single-family home. The homeowners were using a woodstove and the fire is believed to have started in the chimney. Working smoke alarms alerted the occupants and no one was injured at this fire. The building was not sprinklered and the total estimated dollar loss from this fire was $325,000.

Heating Leading Source of CO in the Home

Heating is also the leading cause of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home and sadly we lost a father and son in Acushnet on December 7, 2016. They were overcome by the invisible fumes from a leaky furnace and had no carbon monoxide alarms in the home to warn them. Both smoke and CO alarms are required in Massachusetts homes.

Burn Candles inside a 1-Foot Circle of Safety

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “Many of the holidays celebrated at this time of year use candles. Sadly, the increased candle use at this time of year also causes a boost in candle fires.” Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are among the December days when the most candle fires occur. Consider using battery-operated candles instead, especially if you have children or pets.

  • On Christmas Eve, December 24, 2016, at 12:54 p.m., the Needham Fire Department was called to a candle fire in a mudroom in a single-family home. The candle ignited a nearby jacket. No one was injured at this fire. Alarms were present but it was undetermined if they operated. The building was not sprinklered and damages were estimated to be $5,000.
  • On Christmas Day, December 25, 2016, at 10:09 p.m., the Southampton Fire Department was called to a candle fire in the kitchen of a single-family home. The candle ignited a nearby decoration. Alarms were present and operated and no one was injured at this fire.  The building was not sprinklered and damages were estimated to be $100,000.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

Although Christmas tree fires are rare these days, they are very serious when they do occur. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one-third of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and one-quarter start when the tree is placed too close to a heat source such as a fireplace, woodstove, radiator or space heater. Ostroskey said, “Always keep your Christmas trees watered, place it well away from a heat source, and dispose of them promptly after the holidays.”

For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or the Department of Fire Services at 1-877-9-NO FIRE or online at http://www.mass.gov/dfs and search on Winter Holiday Safety.

(NOTE: The above press release is from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.)

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