The Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is recognizing the critical need for fire safety during the holiday season, emphasizing the alarming statistics provided by the National Fire Protection Association. The NFPA reports that over one-third of home decoration fires originate from candles, with more than two in five incidents caused by decorations placed too close to heat sources.
To raise awareness, the OSFM continues its annual "Keep the Wreath Red Campaign," initiated in 1954, where white lights replace red bulbs upon the occurrence of a fire-related death in the state. The campaign aims to symbolize the lives lost during the holiday season, with seven lives tragically lost in Illinois last year.
Highlighting the urgency of the matter, the NFPA reveals that U.S. fire departments respond to an estimated average of 790 home structure fires annually due to decorations, excluding Christmas trees. Christmas tree-related fires average 150 per year between 2017-2021, often involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Candle fires peak in December, accounting for over half of home decoration fires during the month.
James A. Rivera, Illinois State Fire Marshal urges citizens to prioritize fire safety, recommending precautions such as following manufacturers' guidelines for light strings, replacing damaged cords, and considering battery-powered candles. Rivera stresses the importance of extinguishing all candles before leaving a room or going to bed.
The campaign provides essential safety tips, including using flame-retardant decorations, keeping candles at least 12 inches away from flammable items, and ensuring Christmas trees are adequately watered and positioned away from heat sources. The OSFM also advises cleaning ovens after holiday meals to prevent fires during subsequent holiday meals.
The OSFM urges residents to prioritize fire safety, reminding them that simple precautions can contribute to a bright and festive holiday season without the risk of accidental fires.