Skip to main content
King County logo

News archive



Holiday heating and decorating news release

Summary

Holiday heating and decorating: Make your home fire safe this season

Story

Holiday heating and decorating: Make your home fire safe this season

The King County Fire Marshal Division of the Department of Development and Environmental Services is warning people to be safe with fire this holiday season. Already over the past week, the Fire Investigation Unit has responded to several house fires that could have been prevented. The most common fire causes are candles left unattended, space heaters too close to household items that can burn, fireplace ashes left on the porch, and unattended cooking. Each of these hazards can be minimized.

With temperatures dropping and the holidays at hand, fireplace fires and candles are often used. Yet lighting a fire immediately raises the level of risk in a structure. Nationwide in 2005, fires caused by unattended candles killed 150 people and started close to 15,600 home fires causing $539 million worth of property damage. To minimize risk, never leave a candle burning when you leave the room and keep everything at least 12 inches from open flames.

Heating is the second highest cause of home fires, and space heaters are the biggest hazards. 73% percent of heating-related fire deaths are caused by space heaters. The safest way to use a space heater is to keep any combustible material at least three feet away and to turn it off when you leave the room where it's being used.

Fireplace ashes also pose a potential risk because embers can smolder for more than a week after a fire. Firefighters have responded to numerous fires where homeowners put ashes in a paper bag and set it under the eaves to keep it from getting wet. The still-hot embers ignited the bag and set the entire house on fire. When you clean your fireplace, put ashes in a covered metal container away from your house.

Food is a huge part of holiday festivities which explains why cooking is still the leading cause of house fires. To cook safely this season, always have a lid big enough to cover the largest pan you are using. In case of a grease fire, simply put the lid on it. Don't try to carry it, never put water on it, and never leave the kitchen with anything cooking on the stove.

These tips will help you reduce your fire risk and celebrate safely this holiday season.

For more information, contact King County Fire Marshal John Klopfenstein at 206-296-6675.