Children dressed in costumes excitedly running door to door to trick-or-treat, festive decorations like glowing jack-o-lanterns, paper ghosts and dried cornstalks adorning front porches – these are some of the classic hallmarks of Halloween that make this time of year special for kids and adults alike. Unfortunately, these Halloween symbols and activities can also present lurking fire risks that have the potential to become truly scary. But by planning ahead, you can help make this Halloween a fire-safe one. Halloween by the numbers from the United States Fire Administration: For each year from 2011 to 2013, an estimated 10,300 fires were reported to fire departments in the United States over a three-day period around Halloween and caused an estimated 25 deaths, 125 injuries, and $83 million in property loss. According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, Halloween fires occurred most frequently in the late afternoon and early evening hours, peaking during the dinner hours from 5 to 7 p.m. Fires then declined, reaching the lowest point during the early morning hours of 4 to 7 a.m. The leading causes of Halloween residential fires were cooking (44%), heating (15%), other unintentional careless actions (7%), open flame (6%), electrical malfunction (6%), and intentional actions (5%).
- The National Fire Protection Association reports decorations were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 900 home structure fires per year.
- Nearly half of decoration fires in homes occurred because the decorations were too close to a heat source.
- These fires caused an estimated average of one civilian death, 41 civilian injuries and $13 million in direct property damage throughout the United States per year.
- Forty-one percent of these incidents were started by candles; one-fifth begin in the living room, family room or den.
Let’s help our communities be safer during Halloween by sharing a few fire safety tips with everyone:
- When choosing a costume, stay away from long, trailing fabric. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so they can see out.
- Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
- Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames such as candles and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters.
- Use a battery-operated flameless candle or glow-stick in jack-o-lanterns. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. Make sure children are supervised at all times when candles are lit. When lighting candles inside jack-o-lanterns, use long, fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter. Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far enough out of way of trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways and yards.
- Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes.
- Make sure all smoke alarms in the home are working.
- Tell children to stay away from open flames including jack-o-lanterns with candles in them. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice , stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
For more information about Halloween fires and fire safety, check out the U.S. Fire Administration’s website. By taking simple fire safety precautions like keeping decorations far away from open flames and using battery-operated candles or glow-sticks in jack-o-lanterns, you can help ensure Halloween remains festive and fun close to Where You Live!