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Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office says Candle Fires Caused $13M in Damages, Claimed Eight Lives since 2013

Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO)

Tennessee State Fire MarshalNashville, TN – Decorations can help turn every Scrooge into a Santa, but care must be taken to ensure that a home’s décor is fire safe. To decrease the risk of a home fire, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) reminds consumers that popular holiday decorations, like candles and string lights, can cause tragedy when not used properly.

During the five-year period of 2013-2017 in Tennessee, candles were reported to have caused 385 residential structure fires, eight civilian deaths, 28 civilian injuries, six firefighter injuries and $13 million in fire loss, according to SFMO data. 

Holiday Decorators are Urged to Use Caution when Decorating with Candles
Holiday Decorators are Urged to Use Caution when Decorating with Candles

The data also indicated that 41 percent of candle fires started in bedrooms and candles starting fires were too close to combustibles 46 percent of the time.

“Almost half of candle fires in Tennessee start because the candles were placed too close to flammable decorations,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “While decorations make our homes festive, they must also be placed with care. Taking a few basic precautions when decorating for the holidays could prevent fires from occurring and causing a potential tragedy.”

The SFMO encourages you to consider the following tips to ensure your holiday decorations are as safe as they are festive:

  • Use candles with caution. If possible, choose battery powered flameless candles. If you use lit candles, make sure they are in a stable holder and place them where they cannot be easily knocked over.
  • Maintain holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Not all holiday lights are made equal so be sure that you know whether yours are for indoor or outdoor use and use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights to keep cords from getting damaged. Do not overload electrical outlets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.
  • Make sure to periodically check the wires—they should not be warm to the touch.
  • Never leave holiday lights unattended. Turn off all lights when you leave or go to bed.
  • Use nonflammable decorations. Ensure all decorations are flame resistant or flame retardant. Place all decorations at least three feet from heat sources like fireplaces, space heaters, or heat vents.
  • Dispose of wrapping paper properly. Never place wrapping paper in a fireplace. This paper can cause a large fire that throws off dangerous sparks and embers that could result in a chimney fire.
  • A dry tree can be a fire hazard so always “Be a Good Elf” and care for your tree. If you choose a live Christmas tree, ensure that it is watered every day and that is it promptly disposed of after the holiday. If you’re using an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled as flame retardant.
  • Keep escape routes clear. Never block exits with trees or decorations. If family or friends come in for the holiday season, ensure everyone knows two ways out of each room.
  • Working smoke alarms never go out of season. Ensure you have working smoke alarms in each sleeping area, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Many Tennessee fire departments offer smoke alarms for free as part of the “Get Alarmed, Tennessee” program. If you need alarms, call your local fire department to see what resources are offered in your area.

For more information on keeping your family fire safe this winter, visit tn.gov/fire.


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