Halloween is a peak time of year for spooky celebrations and activities, but it also presents some truly scary fire safety hazards, so the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is encouraging everyone to take simple precautions that can help ensure the holiday remains festively fun.
“It is exciting to be able to trick or treat, wear costumes, and celebrate Halloween, particularly after last year, when most events and activities were canceled due to the pandemic,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “As more people plan to celebrate the holiday this year, we want everyone to know where potential fire risks exist so they can take the steps needed to minimize them.”
According to NFPA Applied Research, an annual average of 770 home structure fires began with decorations between 2014 and 2018, resulting in an annual average of two civilian fire deaths, 30 civilian fire injuries and $11 million in direct property damage.
More than two of every five (44 percent) of these fires occurred because the decorations were too close to a heat source, such as a candle or hot equipment.
NFPA offers these tips and guidelines for enjoying a fire-safe Halloween:
- Decorations: Many common decorations like cornstalks, crepe paper, and dried flowers are very flammable. Keep these and similar decorations far away from any open flames or heat sources, like candles, heaters, and light bulbs.
- Candles: Using candles as decoration can be risky if not done correctly. Keep them in a well- attended area out of the path of potential trick-or-treaters. Remind children of the dangers of open flames, and make sure they are always supervised when candles are lit. Extinguish candles before leaving an area.
- Jack-o-lanterns: Glow sticks or electric candles are the safest choice when it comes to lighting up your jack-o-lantern, but if you choose to use a real candle, do so with extreme caution. Light a candle inside a jack-o-lantern using long fireplace matches or a utility lighter and keep it away from other decorations.
- Costumes: Avoid fabric that billows or trails behind you, as these can easily ignite. If you are making your own costume, avoid loosely woven fabrics like linen and cotton, which can be very flammable.
- Visibility: Give children flashlights or glowsticks for lighting, these can even be incorporated into the costume. If your child has a mask, ensure the eye holes are large enough for them to see clearly.
- Smoke Alarms: This is a great time to make sure your smoke alarms are functional and up to date.
- Exits: Exits are not an appropriate place for decorations. When decorating, ensure that nothing is blocking any escape routes.
“With a little added awareness and planning, people can enjoy a fun-filled Halloween and keep everyone fire-safe in the process,” said Carli.
Visit the NFPA Halloween safety page for more resources of how to stay safe.
Frightfully fun activities for kids can be found on NFPA’s Sparky the Fire Dog homepage.
“In 2020, more people were working and studying at home, commuting far less, and spending more time socializing outside,” said Carli. “It appears that the fires followed these shifts.”
According to the report, which provides a broad overview of how, when, and where U.S. fires occur and their impact on life and property, residential structure fires rose five percent from 2019 to 2020, while non-residential structure fires fell eight percent. Highway vehicle fires fell nine percent; outside and other fires rose 17 percent. Civilian deaths and injuries fell six percent and eight percent, respectively.
Over the long-term, much progress has been made in reducing the U.S. fire problem. The estimated total of fires was 54 percent lower in 2020 than in 1980, while fire death and injury estimates were 46 percent and 50 percent lower, respectively, over the same period. Because the U.S. population has grown since 1980, population-based rates have dropped even more than the estimates have.
“Overall, we’ve seen significant declines in the total number of fires and fire deaths over the past 40 years. That’s the good news,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “At the same time, most of the reduction in reported fires and fire losses occurred more than a decade ago. There is still more work to do, particularly around home fires.”