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Fire Prevention Checklist

Holidays mean special celebrations and special decorations. Fire prevention is important year-round, but at this time of year, more candles are burned and more electricity and extension cords are used for festive lights. That’s why we’ve put together these tips for preventing fires.

Fire prevention requires a comprehensive approach because fires can start in many ways. This article provides checklists for safe candle use, electrical fire safety, and proper use of fire extinguishers.

Safe candle use:

  • Select durable non-flammable candle holders that collect wax and won’t tip over easily.
  • Place candles in holders on uncluttered and sturdy surfaces. Be sure they can’t be inadvertently upended.
  • Keep wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch.
  • Be mindful of your hair and clothing when lighting.
  • Extinguish candles when they burn down to within two inches of their holders (or decorative material on holders), and don’t leave the area until you see that the wicks have stopped glowing.
  • Don’t leave unattended children in areas with burning candles.
  • Keep burning candles away from all decorations, natural or artificial.


Recognize the early warning signs to reduce the risk of an electrical fire. Look out for recurring problems with blown-out fuses or tripped circuit breakers, a tingle when you touch an electrical device, discolored outlets, a burning smell or rubbery odor coming from a device, or flickering lights.

Fuses and circuit breakers:

  • If a fuse or circuit breaker blows, have a professional find out why and correct the problem.
  • Make sure replacement fuses have the proper amperage rating for the circuit they protect.
  • Don’t overload wiring by plugging more than one heat-producing device into the same outlet or circuit.

Electrical Outlets:

  • Replace old outlets with new ones that accept three-pronged polarized plugs (only if your circuit has a ground wire).
  • Never alter a plug to fit an outdated outlet.
  • Use plastic safety covers in unused outlets, especially if children might be in the vicinity.


  • Use only appliances that bear the label of an independent testing lab.
  • Keep all heat-producing devices--such as space heaters, microwaves, and toasters--at least three feet away from flammable materials.

Extension Cords Power Strips:

  • Replace cracked or frayed electrical cords immediately.
  • Don’t pinch electrical cords against walls or furniture or run them under carpets or across doorways.
  • Treat power strips as you would any other electrical outlet: Don’t plug in too many items that can overload the circuit or overheat the device.

Fire extinguishers:

Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary concern in any fire situation is safe escape. If the extinguisher doesn’t immediately stop the fire, leave the area.

Read your fire extinguishers’ instructions and become familiar with the operation before a fire breaks out. Once you’ve used a fire extinguisher to put out a fire, watch the area and be prepared to repeat the process if the fire re-ignites. Have the fire department inspect the fire site--even if you are sure you have extinguished the fire.

  • Only attempt to extinguish a fire if it is small, confined, and not spreading, if you have an unobstructed escape route, and if your extinguisher corresponds with the fire type (see types of fires left sidebar box).
  • Make sure everyone has left the building and that someone has been instructed to call the fire department.
  • Keep your back to a clear exit and stand six to eight feet away from the fire.
  • When operating the fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS:
    • Pull the pin (or activate the lever mechanism).
    • Aim low by pointing the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever above the handle to discharge the extinguishing agent (and release to stop).
    • Sweep the nozzle or hose from side to side, keeping your aim on the fire’s base and moving very carefully toward the flames.

Remember to periodically recharge or replace fire extinguishers according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Everyone wants safe and happy holidays. Keep your celebrations free of fire by following these recommendations.

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