Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Insurance Department and the Office of the State Fire Commissioner today are highlighting the common dangers associated with holiday décor ranging from dehydrated Christmas trees to unattended candles to decorative outside lighting.
“This time of year, we are all eager to spend time with friends and family in front of warm fires, decorating trees and lighting candles,” said Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. “However, it is important for Pennsylvanians to remember the steps they can take to keep themselves, their families and property safe.”
Heating, holiday decorations, winter storms and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months. According to the National Fire Protection Association:
- More than one-third of home decoration fires in December are started by candles
- Christmas is the peak day for candle fires
- More than one in every five Christmas tree fires were caused by a heat source too close to the tree
“Holiday lights and candles are a beloved part of the season, but they are an exceptionally common source of ignition for house fires,” said Acting State Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook. “Modern electric candles look realistic and greatly increase safety. Real candles should only be used when and where they can be monitored.”
Acting Commissioner Cook offered several suggestions for keeping homes safe this winter holiday season:
- Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Keep all holiday greenery, including trees, well-watered.
- Never leave burning candles or cooking appliances unattended.
- Always keep children and pets away from open flames and hot surfaces.
- Replace light strands that have worn or broken wires or loose bulb connections, avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many cords, and do not run extension cords beneath rugs and carpet.
- Be sure to turn off holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Homeowners should be sure to place Christmas trees at least three feet away from a heat source, like a candle, radiator, or fireplace.
“Christmas tree fires often start very quickly, and they can fill a room with toxic smoke in under 30 seconds,” Acting Commissioner Cook added. “It is crucial for Pennsylvanians to take necessary precautions throughout the holidays and beyond.”
The National Fire Protection Association reports that Christmas trees contributed to an annual average of two civilian fire deaths, 10 civilian fire injuries and $10 million in direct property damage during a four-year span.
“The holidays are generally full of thoughtful, fun and sometimes expensive gifts, which is why I encourage homeowners to review their insurance policies to make sure the coverage allotted for contents is enough,” said Altman. “Generally, most homeowners’ policies have specific, lower limits for valuable items.
“I also want to urge consumers to think about how they display unwrapped expensive gifts,” continued Altman. “Make sure items are not visible through windows or doors. When discarding boxes for bigger items like televisions and computers, be sure to break down the boxes and put them out as close to trash day as possible, if not the morning of.”
It is also important to note that if you rent, your belongings will not be covered unless you have a renters insurance policy. Your landlord’s insurance will likely cover the building, but not the contents you own, so if you rent, make sure you have renters’ insurance.
“Small choices for safety can pay large dividends and keep you and your loved ones safe this season,” said Acting Commissioner Cook. “No matter how you choose to celebrate this season, it’s always important to take the proper safety precautions.”
Visit osfc.pa.gov/BeFireSafePA for more seasonal fire safety tips.
For additional resources regarding homeowners or renters insurance, visit www.insurance.pa.gov., or call the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau at 1-877-881-6388.
Thaisa Jones, Insurance, [email protected]
L. Paul Vezzetti, OFSC, 717-651-2169
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