Authorities Warn of Top Holiday Fire Hazards for Katy Homes


November 30, 2018

by Natalie Cook Clark and Ariana Pezeshki

It is estimated about 1,170 home fires per year begin with decorations. "These fires cause an annual average of 8 deaths, 54 injuries, and $19.1 million in property damage." According to The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). Holiday light displays and decorations also bring fire risk for Katy Families, warranting the concern of Katy fire authorities.

Deadly Statistics

The ESFI also states, in addition to the alarming holiday fire statistics that, "150 home fires per year begin with holiday lights and other decorative lighting, causing another 8 deaths, 16 injuries, and $8.9 million in property damage each year."

Christmas Trees

The use of real Christmas trees in your home, creates more fire risk. ESFI says, Christmas trees each year result in "12 deaths, 24 injuries and $16.4 million in property damage." It is imperative to make sure the tree is not blocking an exit. Add water to the tree stand and be sure to add water daily. Never use lit candles around the tree. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. This applies to both real and artificial trees.

Katy's Leading Fire Cause

Not all fire dangers this time of year are related to holiday decorations. "In our district we have seen a mixture of causes that lead to a fire," says Jason Tharp, Lieutenant of Community Risk Reduction Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department. "The leading cause would be heating/furnace fires." Tharp urges residents to have their heaters and/or furnaces inspected and cleaned annually. "On many of the Home Safety Surveys I conduct I ask the resident when the last time their system has been serviced and cleared by a HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) technician. On average 75% of the residents have not received any service unless there was an existing issue," says Tharp.

Tharp also finds that many residents are unaware of the need to clean and inspect their fireplaces. "We understand that this is Texas and the use may be very minimal, however it is important to note that birds and other small animals make nests near the top of the chimney," says Tharp. These animals can compromise insulation leaving it vulnerable to embers traveling up the chimney to the compromised area leading to a fire. Birds and small animals that nest can cause blockage and poor ventilation causing carbon monoxide seepage within the home."

Winter Fire Safety Tips

Clear the area around the fire place.

Use a screen around the front of the fire place.

Never burn trash, cardboard, or debris.

Never leave a fire unattended.

Burn logs at the back of the fire place or grate.

"Our district has responded to other fires as a result of holiday decorating," says Tharp. It's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season especially with social media and reality TV shows like "The Great Christmas Light Fight" encouraging us to go bigger and brighter.