The holidays usher in a lot of cheer and a lot of room for error.
While there’s a common perception that there are more emergencies and accidents during the holidays, it’s not necessarily true. Jason Woydziak, a training officer with Ardmore Fire Department, said it’s more complicated than that.
“I will say you do have a higher number of incidents in the winter months,” Woydziak said. “We’re using Christmas lights, we’re not using the proper extension cords… and you’re using your heater.”
Woydziak said in his 12 years with the Ardmore Fire Department, he’s never responded to a fryer-related accident on Thanksgiving. Still, he said there’s some basic safety measures to keep in mind.
“You want to make sure the turkey is fully thawed,” Woydziak said. “Another recommendation would be to keep that fryer between 25 and 50 feet from the house. It’s cold out, everyone wants it by the back door, but if something does happen, your house is right there.”
Fire departments nationwide harp on space heater safety every year, but certain things still aren’t common knowledge. Space heaters draw so much power that it’s unsafe to plug them into an extension cord, and it’s not even entirely safe to plug a second appliance into the same wall outlet occupied by one.
“They should be the only thing plugged in,” Woydziak said. “They have such a draw. I just found that out myself not too long ago.”
Over a few weeks, a subpar extension cord can heat up, melt and start a fire. Woydziak said trying to hide an unsightly extension cord under a rug can increase the risk of a fire as well.
“It traps that heat, the carpet is fairly flammable, and then you have a fire,” Woydziak said. “And every time you step on it, you risk breaking the wires inside. It’s just a bunch of little things like that, that you’d never think could cause a fire.”
Live Christmas trees become more dangerous as they dry out. Woydziak said the safest thing to do is keep them watered diligently during the lead-up to Christmas, then get rid of them quickly to avoid another fire hazard.
“All those grass fires you see where they get out of control? Generally, there’s a cedar tree involved,” Woydziak said. “There’s always a few dry branches, and their sap is highly flammable.”
“We just have more things going on in our homes,” Woydziak said.
Christmas lights could pose another danger if misused. Most come with instructions that should be followed to prevent overheating.
“If you’ve got some Christmas lights that say ‘no more than three strands,’ don’t connect nine,” Woydziak said. “That’s the biggest thing, read the instructions and follow them.”