MILLBURN, NJ - As we celebrate the 2018 holiday season, the Millburn Fire Department is reminding community residents to observe holiday safety guidelines. A recent study showed that approximately 800 home fires are caused by holiday decorations in the United States each year, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 25 percent of winter fires are caused by Christmas trees placed too close to a heat source.
"While this is always a joyous time of year, preventable tragedies can be caused by holiday decorations, as well as fireplaces,” said Millburn Fire Chief Robert Echavarria. “Residents can safeguard their homes and families this holiday season by following these practical and common-sense safety recommendations.”
Among the Department’s suggestions to stay safe this holiday season:
- Use candles responsibly and under supervision. Always avoid leaving burning candles unattended, or placing them near curtains, paper, or combustible decorations. In recent years, a variety of safer battery-operated candles with realistic “flames” have hit the market.
- Electric decorations have become much safer over the years — but precautions should still be taken. More than a third of Christmas tree fires are as a result of issues with electric lights. Lights and cords should be inspected, and decorations that will be exposed to outdoor weather should be plugged into three-prong (ground fault-interrupted) receptacles.
- Avoid plugging too many devices into one outlet. Just this month in Massachusetts, a major fire was caused by a speaker sharing an outlet with a Christmas tree.
- Avoid blocking doors and exits — even temporarily — with trees and other decorations.
- When purchasing electric decorations in a store or online, make sure they feature the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification symbol.
- Real Christmas trees should be freshly cut and not dry. The tree should be kept in water that is replenished regularly, and trees should never be placed near a flame or heat source.
- Fireplaces should be inspected periodically, and flues and chimneys should be cleaned annually. Only dry and seasoned hardwood should be burned.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors and smoke detectors save lives. Make sure that working CO and smoke detectors, with fresh batteries, are appropriately installed in each level of the home.
“As a reminder, the Fire Department offers free safety surveys of local homes,” said Chief Echavarria. "We'll point out potential hazards and provide tips and guidance to keep residents safe as winter approaches."
Millburn-Short Hills residents interested in scheduling a survey can contact the Department, at (973) 564-7043.