Fall Fire Safety Inside and Outside Your Home

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The National Fire Protection Association says that two out of every five fires are caused by a candle, and flammable decorations start at least 900 fires each year. Halloween is not the only fall holiday when decorations catch fire; Thanksgiving is a holiday full of lights and candles inside and out. Fall is also the time when dried leaves accumulate, and homeowners often burn these leaves before discarding the ashes. When the temperatures drop, space heaters can easily start a fire, especially if plugged into a power strip as opposed to directly into a wall socket. Don’t forget that fireplaces, too, are a fire hazard if not properly maintained and dangerous for children to be around if you don’t take a few precautions. Here are some safety tips to keep your holiday spirits high and your home insurance claims low.

Burning Leaves Safely To Avoid Fires

Many people burn dried leaves to dispose of them, instead of stuffing numerous garbage bags. Make sure your city ordinances allow open burning first. Also, don’t be tempted to add other trash to the pile of leaves. Not only can the fumes be toxic, you may experience an explosion or blaze that may endanger your home.

It’s also a bad idea to use fuel or any flammable liquids to get the job done faster. It could end up in an uncontrolled fire, especially if winds pick up. Also remember to be prepared to put out a fire that is beginning to grow dangerously big. Having a fire extinguisher in the home is a good idea. If that’s not an option, use dirt and water. If you end up injuring yourself with a burn, call your doctor or go to an emergency room.

Don’t be tempted to add other trash to the pile of leaves you're burning.

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Space Heaters

From 2009 to 2013, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 56,000 reported U.S. home fires — accounting for 16 percent of the total, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFP).

Even as early as October people start using space heaters to keep the chill at bay. Space heaters are great as long as you take a few precautions. The most important thing to remember is to avoid plugging one into a power strip as opposed to directly into the power outlet. Power strips and extension cords are not equipped to handle the extra current flow. At best, you may blow a fuse, and at worst you could start a fire. Also, if you’re not careful about the placement of the heater, you can easily ignite nearby combustible materials like curtains, beds, sofas, paper, clothing, and flammable liquids.

Here are some things to keep in mind about your space heater(s):

  1. Never use a space heater that you think may be damaged.
  2. Never use a space heater with a faulty or frayed cord.
  3. Do not leave the heater running while you’re sleeping or are not home.
  4. If the plug does not fit the outlet snugly, do not plug it into that outlet.
  5. Only place a heater on a stable, level surface.
  6. Do not run the cord under rugs.
  7. Keep electric heaters away from water to avoid electric shock.
  8. Keep fabrics far away from the heater.

Avoid plugging a space heater into a power strip as opposed to directly into the power outlet.

Fireplace Safety Tips

Fall’s the beginning of fireplace season, and it’s important to have your gas fireplace inspected each year before you begin cozying up. If you have small children, it’s a good idea to use a safety screen to seal off a little one who has yet to learn that flames are dangerous. Also, keep all furniture and objects at least three feet away from the fireplace.

Here are all the safety tips to keep in mind before you begin using your fireplace:

  1. Clean out the ashes at the base of the fireplace, to allow smoke to ventilate properly.
  2. Keep a window partially open while the fire is burning.
  3. Open the flue so the smoke goes outside, not inside.
  4. Don’t use wet or moist logs. Make sure they are dry to avoid clogging the chimney and creating excess smoke.
  5. If you have fake logs, make sure they are in good condition.
  6. Use small pieces of wood, which burn faster and create less smoke.
  7. Check for blockages and small animals.
  8. Keep fireplace tools, matches and lighters away from children.
  9. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher.
  10. Remember to extinguish all flames before going to sleep. Even if it’s still hot, it is a fire hazard.

Keep all furniture and objects at least three feet away from the fireplace and space heater.


Candles. Dried corn, candle wreaths, and garlands that decorate a beautifully set table with candles. Yes, candles are the number one cause of fires during fall holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. It’s a good idea to buy battery-operated candles, which are far safer.

Incandescent bulbs. Whether it’s a lighted path along your lawn, a Thanksgiving wreath or fall garland wreath you plan to place on your front door, replace incandescent bulbs with LED ones, which do not run as hot, thereby limiting the risk of fire. Reduce the risk of fire by using ONLY outdoor approved fairy lights, led string lights or Christmas lights. Plug them into a waterproof and outdoor-rated extension cord. Better yet, consider buying battery-operated lights this year, going forward.

General Fall Fire Safety Tips for the Home

  1. Make sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your home (including the basement) and one near the furnace.
  2. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms.
  3. Have at least one fire extinguisher in the home, preferably in or close to the kitchen and fireplace.
  4. Develop an evacuation plan for the family in case of a blaze.
  5. Check your heating system annually.

Instead of using wax candles, it’s a good idea to buy battery-operated candles, which are far safer.

Fall Fire Safety FAQs

How far away from a fireplace can I safely place furniture or plants?

Place all objects at least three feet away from the fireplace.

Can LED lights catch fire?

No, most LED lights do not get hot enough to ignite.

Do Space Heaters Catch Fire?

If your space heater is new and has an automatic shut-off, it may be safer than most space heaters which are dangerous. Keep all objects, including your mattress, at least three feet away from the space heater. Turn it off before sleep if it does not have automatic shut-off.

Key Takeaways

  • Fall is the season of flammable decorations, both inside and outside your home.
  • Avoid using incandescent bulbs and real candles.
  • Have your fireplace checked annually by a professional.
  • Take care to keep flammable objects three feet or more away from a fireplace or space heater.
  • Only plug a space heater directly into the wall outlet.

Fire hazards abound in fall, and the dangers come from inside and outside the house if you have festive decorations, a fireplace or space heater. In addition to the tips above, you can protect your home by having the right condo or home insurance, which covers accidental fires. For the lowest rates in your area, enter your zip code and answer a few questions for free quotes.

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