Santa Claus ornaments on tree, date unknown, stock image.

Help to make the season bright, safe, and free from fire hazards

Candles, fires, lights, and Christmas cooking are fun and festive, so keep them safe

Strings of bright lights outside, and on the Christmas tree; festive candles; lots of extra baking and cooking; a roaring fire on the hearth. Some or all of these are a part of many people’s Christmas celebrations, but they mean increased fire risks. The Office of the Fire Commissioner has some fire safety advice to help ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season for all British Columbians.

When you are decorating, keep trees, wrapping paper, decorations, and other things that can catch fire away from heat sources. If you are using a real tree, keep it fresh and green by watering it daily, and dispose of it responsibly after the season is over.

Choose flame-retardant or non-combustible decorations, and only use lights that have been tested and labelled by a certified testing laboratory. Consider replacing incandescent lights with energy-efficient LED lighting, which produces less heat and poses less of a fire risk. If you have old light strings with frayed cables or cords or dodgy light sockets, throw them out. Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed, and don’t overload a light socket or extension cord by plugging in too many things.

Letting kids help out with festive baking is a great opportunity to create fun times and lasting memories. However, have a “kid-free zone” of at least one metre around the stove and any areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried (it’s also a good idea to keep pets out of the way so they don’t get underfoot).

Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food; if you have to leave the kitchen, even for a short time, turn off the stove. If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly. Remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.

Never pour water on a grease fire. On the stove top, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. After a fire, the oven should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.

Candles can add a touch of magic, but make sure you blow them out if you leave the room or when you go to bed. Use candle holders that will not tip over easily, put them on a sturdy, uncluttered surface, and make sure they are well out of the reach of children and pets. Battery-operated candles are an excellent, safe alternative to traditional candles.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure the chimney is free from blockages and has been cleaned. Don’t overload the fire with too much wood, use a fire screen or guard to keep embers from shooting out, and make sure the fire is out before you leave the room or house.

You should ensure that working smoke alarms are installed on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area. Test and clean them regularly, and if you are not sure how much life is left in the batteries, put fresh ones in. Make sure that holiday decorations such as trees do not block any exits.

For more holiday fire safety tips, go to

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