State Fire Marshal Offers Halloween Safety Tips; Costumes, Candles and Jack-O-Lanterns Pose Increased Fire Risk

Contact: LARA Communications 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

October 25, 2011 - State Fire Marshal Ronald R. Farr today encourages families to take a few simple safety precautions to reduce fire risk and avoid burn injuries during Halloween where hidden dangers also come in disguise.

"On Halloween there's a significant increase in home fires and burn-related injuries most commonly caused by candles igniting costumes and decorations," said Farr. "Make sure the costumes are flame-resistant and will not ignite easily.  Don't use candles to decorate inside or outside the home, and do have smoke alarms."

Halloween is the fifth highest day of the year for candle fires according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). For safety sake, choose alternatives to burning candles by using flashlights, battery-operated candles or electric lights. Use flashlights in pumpkins rather than candles and keep holiday decorations, such as dried cornstalks, away from heat and open flames.

"Decorations are the first thing to ignite in more than 1,000 reported home fires each year on Halloween and more than half are started by candles," said Farr.

Tell children to stay away from open flames, especially candles and jack-o-lanterns that may be on steps and porches -- their costumes could catch fire if they get too close. Kids should never carry lit candles, jack-o-lanterns or high heat or flaming decorations which also could easily ignite costumes. Always use a flashlight, flameless candle, or light stick.

Each year, firefighters and paramedics deal with an increasing number of incidents on Halloween that can easily be prevented.  Here are some tips to avoid frightful fire hazards:

  • Buy only costumes, fabric and accessories labeled flame-resistant or flame-retardant made with material that won't easily ignite if exposed to heat or flame and will extinguish more readily. 
  • Avoid baggy, billowing or oversized costumes that are dangerous around lit candles or open flames.
  • Avoid masks and over-the-head costumes which can impede vision or make removal difficult in the event of fire; use face paint or make-up instead.
  • Be sure children know how to "stop, drop and roll" if their clothing catches fire to smother spreading flames.  Have them practice stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.
  • Tell kids to let you know right away if they see other kids playing with matches or lighters .
  • Use only decorative lights that have been tested and certified for safety. Check lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.
  • Don't overload electrical outlets or extension cords with holiday lighting or special effects.    
  • Have working smoke alarms in the home and set up a home fire escape route.
  • Keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes.

Keeping children safe while trick-or-treating is one of greatest concerns to Fire/EMS department personnel. Children should always go trick-or-treating with a responsible adult. Remind children to stay together as a group and walk from house to house. Review how to cross a street with your child. Look left, right, and left again to be sure no cars are approaching before crossing the street.

Parents should warn their children not to eat any of their treats before they get home where it can be examined by an adult. All candy should be inspected to ensure that it is safely sealed and has not been tampered with. Fruit should be sliced into small pieces and checked for foreign objects. If in doubt, throw it out. Keep small pieces of candy away from infants and very small children, as they can easily become lodged in the throat and cause choking.

The Bureau of Fire Services wishes all a happy, fire-safe Halloween. Visit the Bureau of Fire Services website for more fire safety information.

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