Winter Fire Safety

January 9, 2018


By: Megan Hays, MSN, CPNP. Peconic Pediatrics (Riverhead & Southold, NY)

December, January and February are the most common three months of the year for home fires. With this in mind, we have created a quick quiz to test your knowledge of important fire safety topics.  See below for answers and helpful resources to further deepen your fire-safety knowledge – and have a safe and happy 2018!


1) What is the leading cause of all winter home fires?

  1. Candles
  2. Child’s play
  3. Christmas trees
  4. Cooking

2) Children starting fires is almost always due to worrisome mental illness.

  1. True
  2. False

3) What is the most common time of day for winter home fires?

  1. 12 a.m. to 5 a.m.
  2. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  3. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

4) Practicing fire escape plans and testing smoke and carbon dioxide detectors should be done at least annually.

  1. True
  2. False


  1. The leading cause of all winter home fires is D) Cooking – specifically having a heat source too close to combustibles.

As for Christmas tree fires – while they are rare, they are more likely to occur in January when the tree is dry.  They are also more likely to be serious than other fires.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds us to never store an old Christmas tree in the garage or near the house, and recommends disposing of trees by utilizing a local tree recycling program if one is available.  The NFPA also has some helpful tips on how to put those holiday electrical decorations away safely:

  • Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire.
  • As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.
  • Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.

Candles play a part in about 3% of home fires and 3% of home fire deaths.   Having kids in the home can make candle safety both more difficult and more important, so consider using electronic flame-free candles in the home during your child’s early years.  If you do choose to use live-flame candles, never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle, and be sure to keep all matches and lighters out of reach and locked away from curious kiddos.  Also keep in mind that more than half of candle home fires can be attributed to combustible items being too close to the flame, so it is important to keep candles at least one foot (12 inches) away from anything that can burn.  Additionally, one-third of candle fires occur in the bedroom, and are especially dangerous if the person attending the candle falls asleep.  Be sure to blow out all candles if you are sleepy, or before leaving the room.

2.  Children starting fires is almost always due to worrisome mental illness – this statement is For most kids, playing with fire is an exercise in curiosity, but that does not make this behavior safe or okay.  If you are concerned that your child is exhibiting fire-setting behavior, reach out to your local fire department or pediatrician for resources and support.  Mental health services can be helpful for children who seem to be especially focused on fire starting or who are demonstrating thrill-seeking or attention-seeking behaviors.  For all children, it is important for adults to set a good example for fire safety in the home.  Never play with fire in front of your children, and keep any matches, lighters or combustible material out of the child’s reach and locked.  Kids under 6 are most likely to start fires in the home than other age groups.  The NFPA provides a great 1-page PDF for preventing play-induced fires here (

3. The most common time for winter home fires is from C) 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., although the most common time for fires started by child’s play is between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. This is a busy time of day with kids home from school and dinner cooking, so be extra mindful of fire safety during these hours.

4. Practicing fire escape plans and testing smoke and carbon dioxide detectors should be done at least annually – this statement is The United States Fire Administration (USFA) recommends practicing fire escape plans and testing smoke and carbon dioxide detectors monthly.  Children should be involved in these activities, specifically in creating and practicing escape plans.  Have a designated meeting spot, such as the porch of a trusted neighbor, in case evacuation is needed.  Make sure that kids and all family members also practice closing doors behind them during these drills — closing doors limits the speed in which fire can spread.  Below are the USFA’s tips on fire escape planning:

  • Make and practice a fire escape plan.
  • Plan two ways to escape from each room.
  • Pick a place to meet after you escape to check that everyone got out.
  • Practice your escape plan every month.
  • Plan for everyone in your home – including babies and others who need help to escape.
  • Involve children in making and practicing your escape plan.
  • Teach children to never hide during a fire – they must get out and stay out.

Have a safe and warm winter!



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