It wouldn’t be Christmas without decorations, right? While we can’t argue with this, festive-decor related fires are one of the main reasons for callouts over the Christmas period.
A common (and well publicised) cause is electrical overload. This can be from tree lights being left on constantly. Often, they’re plugged in using poorly maintained extension cords. It’s so easy to forget to switch these off when you pop out or go to bed.
It’s estimated that substandard electrical distribution or lighting equipment is involved in almost half of Christmas fires. In 25% of Christmas fires, a heat source (like a candle) will have been left too close to a tree.
Many Christmas decorations burn very easily. As can a real tree that has dried out or been left too close to a radiator or fire! And of course, candles themselves cause obvious dangers. These are something that are for many of us are only used at Christmas time.
In the colder months, many people drag out additional heaters, or fire up the coal fire or log-burner. An unattended and unguarded open fire can get out of control in seconds.
A huge culprit of home fires, however, is electric heaters. This is particularly true of ‘bargain’ models, or those that have been in storage all year. In most cases, they haven’t been checked for potential faults.
These types of heaters often only give out enough heat if you’re close to them. It follows that they’re often placed too close to flammable materials, like curtains, clothing or soft furnishings.
The kitchen can get chaotic when you’re prepping a big Christmas dinner. It’s all too easy to become distracted and forget about a simmering pot, or turning the heat down in the oven. Unattended cooking is the number one cause of fires in the kitchen in general.
A build up of grease and fat from all of that traditional and delicious food increased the risk, with another reported cause being alcoholic drinks or flammable items like tea-towels being left too close to the cooker.
After drinking alcohol, the risk of accidents in the kitchen is greater. It can also make people more relaxed, and more careless!
However, the main danger to people at Christmas from alcohol isn’t just from fire. It’s from the other major incidents that Firefighters attend – road traffic accidents.
These increase hugely over the festive period. This is despite laws been tightened, and a zero tolerance attitude being in place. ) People adopt an “I’ve only had the one” mentality. They’re also more likely to get behind the wheel after a heavy night, when they still have a high percent of alcohol in their bloodstream.
The Pandemic – Additional Challenges for Firefighters at Christmas
With social restrictions being in place, there has been a drop in the amount of home safety checks the Fire Service has been able to carry out. The situation is the same with community talks and events.
These are crucial in helping promote fire safety and awareness, particularly among the vulnerable in society or older generations.
And finally, although there are clear rules in place for social gatherings, there will always be those who break these rules, or make their own interpretation of them! This increases the risk of spreading Coronavirus, particularly where alcohol is involved and inhibitions are lowered.