Keep the Home Fires Burning… Safely


We see the stories in the headlines every year around the holidays. Someone is injured at home decorating the tree, or returns from a well-deserved vacation and finds damage to their home from fire or water. When an accident happens involving the home, who is at fault? The manufacturer of the fireplace? The caretaker who was house-sitting while you were away? The manufacturers of the Christmas tree lights? The owner of the home who accidentally posed a threat to guests? Home damage presents many problems and it is difficult to ascertain who is at fault, especially if you or someone is injured as a result.

Tragedy comes in all forms around the holidays from presents that have been “hidden” in a stove (yes, it’s true), to candles near a Christmas tree, to burns resulting from deep frying the turkey for a perfect holiday feast. The U.S. Fire Administration estimates home fires from holiday lights alone result in over 400 injuries per year and millions of dollars in property damage. Their site features videos displaying how quickly a Christmas tree can burn from candles or holiday lights that have been left on.

To ensure that you are not a statistic on any level, it’s important to remember that the holidays present unfamiliar circumstances: our home is rearranged to accommodate the tree; our decorations are taken out of storage in haste and we forget to check them for safety; we overload the electrical outlets with strings of lights, inside and out; we compete to be the most decorated house on the block, like the Griswold’s in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We may not go to the extent that Clark did to decorate his house, but we do want to play it safe for the season. Here are some ways to take caution:

  • Ensure that you are prepared for fire incidents by stocking fire extinguishers throughout the home.
  • Set up the Christmas tree so that any openings to the outdoors are left free and clear.
  • Position candles at a height so they can’t be reached by small children or pets.
  • Plan a power backup in case power goes out.
  • Stock all easy-to-access flashlights with batteries.
  • Plug outdoor electrical lights using a grounded source for electricity.
  • Make sure all smoke alarms are in working condition.
  • Designate areas for ashtrays if your holiday party includes friends who smoke.
  • Avoid burning wrapping paper in the fireplace and refrain from using “color salts” to create colorful flames, which are harmful if ingested.

Our home is a haven of safety and respite, and is the center of many of our holiday gatherings and traditions. There’s nothing worse than being injured in the midst of a celebration and, no matter how many safety measures we take, someone can still get hurt. If that someone is you, contacting a firm who knows the risks and liability of products and home hazards will help you rest easier in the coming year.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.