Stick to fire safety even when stuck at home

The Hinsdale Fire Department is once again participating in the annual statewide Keep the Wreath Red fire safety program. A wreath will be hung outside the station at 121 Symonds Drive. For each fire caused by holiday decorations, a red bulb will be replace with a white bulb.

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to discourage people from traveling at the levels usually seen around the holidays, meaning more people will be spending the season at home. That shift, experts say, will lead to increased cooking activity and greater use of heating equipment at residences, in addition to the holiday decoration and Christmas tree fires typically seen.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2013-17, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual 160 home fires on average that started with Christmas trees. The fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in direct property damage annually.

In 26 percent of Christmas tree fires and in 80 percent of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree. A dried out tree will burn in less than 1 minute — much faster than one that has been watered regularly. Once the tree has become brittle, stop using the lights. And lights should never be left on when no one is home.

Firefighters also offer these reminders to help residents stay safe this holiday season.

• Check all illuminated decorations to make sure they are in good condition. Light strands with frayed or cracked wires should be thrown away and replaced with UL approved devices. Outside cords should be approved for exterior uses.

• Do not overload extension cords or outlets with excessive holiday lights. Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations. Also, be conscious of where you place extension cords. Keep them away from heaters, out from underneath rugs and anywhere else they may become damaged.

• Never leave candles unattended and always place them out of reach of children and pets. Make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be knocked down easily. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

• Make sure your fireplace is in good working order and the chimney is free from obstructions and creosote build-up. Christmas wrappings and tree branches burn rapidly and should not to be put in the fireplace, as they can cause chimney fires and flames to extend out of the firebox into your home.

• Keep Christmas trees at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles or heat vents. Trees should be disposed of shortly after Christmas or when they become dry.

• As always, check smoke detectors and make sure they are in good working order. If you did not change the batteries when you changed your clocks to daylight-saving time, change them now.