Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Family fire safety during cold weather: 25 key tips

Once it gets colder outside, your house gets warmer and you decorate for the holidays, there are some increased fire risks to keep in mind. As ambassadors for Kidde, Fireman Max and I are sharing these simple safety pointers. As much as you think you may know, I'm betting some tips will be new to you as they were to me.

Space heater, chimney and candle heads up

1. Place a sturdy screen over your fireplace to prevent sparks from zooming into the room, says the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Put ashes into a metal container only once they are cool, then keep the container a safe distance from your home.
2. Do not toss gift wrap paper into the fireplace—it can ignite suddenly and burn intensely, notes the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
3. If your space heater is on the old side, replace it with one that meets the latest safety standards, advises Kidde, including having an automatic cut-off device and guarding around the heating coils and burners.
4. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials, per the U.S. Fire Administration. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, too, urges Safe Kids Worldwide (SKW), including clothing, books, paper, curtains, Christmas trees and paper decorations.
5. Turn off space heaters and blow out candles when you leave an area or before you go to sleep.
6. Don't place lit candles—or Chanukah menorahs with lit candles—in a window where blinds and curtains can close over them.
7. Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material. Extinguish votives and containers before the last half-inch of wax starts to melt.

Carbon monoxide safety tips

8. Make sure your chimney is cleaned and inspected every year; you want to keep them free of leaves, residue and animal nests for proper venting, note the experts at Kidde.
9. You also want to have a licensed professional inspect your heating system and other fuel-burning appliances.
10.  To prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide—especially at night when your family is asleep—open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool.
11. Never use an oven or stove to heat your home.
12. Install a carbon monoxide alarm, as with smoke alarms, on every level of your home, recommends SKW.

Got a portable fireplace? Check out this video from the NFPA.

Cooking safety 

13. Whether you're cooking up a holiday feast or just mac 'n cheese, keep cooking areas free of combustible materials including potholders, paper towels and packaging, says Kidde. Avoid wearing loose clothing that can catch fire.
14. Turn pot handles inward to prevent spills.
15. Never pour water onto a cooking oil fire—it will only exacerbate it.
16. If there's an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to contain it.
17. Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher handy, like the Kidde Kitchen Fire Extinguisher RESSP that we have—and read the instructions so you actually know how to use it.

Holiday decorating to-dos (and to-don'ts)

18. When you're buying a fresh tree, go for one with needles that are hard to pull from the branches—they shouldn't break when bent between your fingers, or fall off when the trunk of the tree is bounced on the ground, says the CPSC. The trunk butt should be sticky with resin.
19. If you get an artificial tree, make sure it's identified by the manufacturer as "fire retardant," reminds the NFPA.
20. Before you place the tree in the stand, cut one to two inches from the base of the trunk.
21. Keep the tree at least three feat away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents and lights.
22. Add water daily to the tree stand.
23. Use lights that have been tested by an independent laboratory, per the label. Toss any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets per single extension cord, and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. And turn off all lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
24. Don't use lit candles on the tree.
25. If you make paper decorations, says the CPSC, look for materials labeled "non-combustible" or "flame-resistant."

Last: Enjoy!

More from the fire safety series from me and Fireman Max:

Making a family fire escape plan for kids with special needs

9 summer fire safety tips for outdoor fun

What we learned from our home fire safety inspection

Protecting your family from a home fire

For additional info, check out: 

Kidde on Facebook
@KiddeSafety on Twitter
@kiddefiresafety on Instagram

This post is one in a series sponsored by Kidde, for whom I am a compensated ambassador. 

Fireplace image: Flickr/Rickydavid


  1. I just got accepted to college!!!!

    1. Congratulations, Kathryn!!! I'm sure your parents are so proud of you. I am!

    2. They are thrilled! Thanks Ellen! Elementary education with a concentration in English.

    3. I'm sure many kids would love to have you as their teacher.


Thanks for sharing!

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