Ask an Expert Preventing Fires During the Holidays

By Tom Lopatosky

As much as I hate to be a fun-sucker (someone who sucks all of the fun out of a room!!), it is extremely important to be cognizant of the variety of ways that house fires can be started during the Holidays.

Fires in people’s homes are more frequent during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports more than double the number of open-flame fires on Christmas Day than on an average day and about twice as many on New Year’s Day.

It is VERY important to be EXTREMELY vigilant in eliminating potential causes of fire that seem to surface more often at this time of year.

Here are a number of ideas that you may find helpful:

According to the USFA, cooking is the top cause of Holiday fires. As one example, if you are going to deep fry a turkey, do it outside on flat, level ground at least 10 feet from the house.
According to the USFA, candle fires happen four times more often during December than in any other month. To reduce the risk of a candle fire, make sure there it is at least 1 foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn as it is lit.
According to the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, it takes less than 30 seconds for a dry Christmas Tree to engulf a room in flames. Make sure when a “live” Christmas Tree is purchased, it is as fresh of a cut as possible and be sure to water it every day.
Before beginning to use your fireplace for the season, be sure to have your chimney inspected and cleaned if necessary. Soot can harden on chimney walls as flammable creosote.
When decorating with lights for the Holidays, throw out any lights with frayed/cracked wires or broken sockets. Make sure outdoor electrical receptacles are properly ground. Also, be sure to avoid nails and staples while hanging lights outside (utilize clips or hangers instead).

The Holidays should be a joyous time of year for all of us and our families. By being as proactive as possible from a fire prevention standpoint, we may help ensure that this wonderful season is devoid of a potential tragedy that can easily be prevented!

Tom Lopatosky has run his own carpentry and painting business in Providence since 1995; LOPCO Contracting – the “Personable, Particular Professionals” – specializes in carpentry and exterior & interior painting. Recently LOPCO Contracting was named ‘RI’s Finest Painting Contracting Company’ by ShopInRI Magazine. In 2013, Tom was named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) and a “40 Under 40” award winner by Providence Business News. He is a member of both the PDCA and RIBA (Rhode Island Builders Association). Tom has weekly ‘Home Improvement Tips’ that air on the radio on 630 WPRO AM (during the weekday morning news) and on television on WPRI 12 (during the Saturday morning news). I’m honored to have the opportunity to talk to you about home improvement on a monthly basis. I love answering your questions! Please send them to or call 401-270-2664. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this column!