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State Fire Marshal Urges Fire Safety This Holiday Season

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-335-LARA (5272)

December 20, 2019 - With the holiday season upon us, it’s also the season for greater fire risk. LARA Director Orlene Hawks and State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer urge consumers to use caution as the holidays are a peak time for home fires caused by unattended candles and space heaters, electrical problems with worn lights, and dry Christmas trees.

“The holiday season is a joyous time of year,” said LARA Director Orlene Hawks. “The state fire marshal and I urge all Michiganders to learn and follow basic fire safety tips that will help avoid a tragedy and ensure that our holidays are safe and enjoyable.”

“A dry Christmas tree is extremely flammable,” said Sehlmeyer. “These types of fires can turn deadly within seconds, allowing little time for escape. Check your tree’s water every day. Don’t risk the chance of fire and the loss of family, friends or your home.”

The top three days for home candle fires occur on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. In many of the fires that occur near the holidays, people often fall asleep or leave their home with unattended candles left burning.

Michigan residents are urged to keep candles away from the tree, decorations, curtains, and furniture that can catch fire. Always keep candles up high to prevent them from getting knocked over by children and pets and remember that battery-operated, flameless candles are the safest option.

Keep these fire safety tips in mind for a safe holiday season:

  • Choose a fresh tree, water it daily, and place it away from exits and at least three feet from any heat source (fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights).
  • Never decorate your tree with lit candles; use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections should be replaced; read the manufacturers’ instructions for the maximum number of light strands to connect and don’t overload electrical outlets or electrical outlet strips.
  • Always turn off tree lights and extinguish candles when going to bed or leaving your home.

A live Christmas tree burn conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows how quickly a dried-out Christmas tree fire burns, with flashover occurring in less than one minute, as compared to a tree watered regularly.

“Be sure your smoke alarms are in working order, have a fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it,” Sehlmeyer said. “In order to ensure your survival in a home fire, it is essential to have a prepared and practiced home fire escape plan, with two ways out of your home.”

Please remember to test smoke alarms of elderly family members and neighbors when visiting them over the holidays. MI Prevention has identified that people over the age of 60 are at the greatest risk to die in residential fires in Michigan. Increase your chances of surviving a residential fire by:

  • Checking each smoke alarm monthly.
  • Changing your smoke alarms every ten (10) years.
  • Changing the batteries in 9-volt smoke alarms every year.
  • Installing a smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every sleeping area.
  • Having a prepared and practiced fire escape plan with two ways out of the home.

If you need smoke alarms and have financial hardship, please contact the Bureau of Fire Services at 517-241-8847. The Bureau of Fire Services and MI Prevention wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season. For more fire safety information, please visit the MI Prevention website.

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