Deck the Halls Safely: December a Leading Month for Home Fires in Ohio

COLUMBUS – Home-cooked meals, crackling fireplaces, and evergreens adorned with festive decorations are all part of what makes the holidays such a special time of year. But the very things that create so much joy can also increase the likelihood of a fire in your home.

“The holidays are about celebrating all we have to be thankful for, especially our loved ones. This holiday season, make sure to keep the safety of your family and friends in mind when cooking, decorating or heating your home,” said State Fire Marshal Jeff Hussey. “The simplest steps to reduce the risk of fire can have the biggest impact.”

December topped the list for cooking-related fires across the country in 2018 with 401 incidents. Cooking contributed to nearly 32 percent of all home fires throughout the entire year with 3,951 — the largest single cause on record for 2018. Home heating was the second leading cause of home fires for 2018 with 1,058.

Ohioans should familiarize themselves with their homeowners or renters insurance policies to ensure that the coverage amounts are correct in case their property and/or possessions are damaged or destroyed by fire.

“Proactively managing your insurance protections can make a world of difference if you need to file a claim,” Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment said. “Our experts can be a tremendous educational resource for consumers during that process.”

Here are some steps you can take to stay safe:

Cooking Safety

  • Do not leave any cooking area unattended.
  • Set a timer as a reminder of the food you are preparing.
  • Maintain a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove or areas where hot food or drinks are being prepared.
  • Keep paper towels and napkins away from hot surfaces.
  • Keep deep-fried turkey cooking out of the garage, away from your home, and wooden structures.
  • Have an appropriate fire extinguisher handy.
  • If the situation becomes more serious, evacuate and call 911.

Decoration Safety

  • Always follow manufacturer instructions when installing holiday lights, and never connect more than three strands together.
  • Inspect lights each year, and discard any with damaged sockets or wires.
  • Turn off lights and blow out candles when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Live Christmas trees should be as fresh as possible. Make a fresh cut at the base and place the tree in a sturdy stand; water it daily. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
  • Do not block your primary or alternate escape routes with a tree, decorations or presents.
  • Consider using battery-operated, flameless candles instead of lit candles.
  • When using lit candles, keep them in stable holders and away from combustibles.

Home Heating 101

  • When using a fireplace, always burn clean, dry wood to reduce creosote buildup.
  • Have your chimneys cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
  • When using a space heater, keep a safe zone of 3 feet away from furniture, curtains or anything else that can burn.

Additionally, Marshal Hussey encourages Ohioans to have a working smoke alarm installed on every level of the home and inside and outside of each bedroom or sleeping area.

Director Froment stressed the importance of conducting a home inventory of possessions using the tools available on the Ohio Department of Insurance’s website — A home inventory can significantly speed up the claim payout process. Additionally, if you have to file a claim, take photographs and/or video of the damage and immediately contact your insurance agent and/or company. And provide complete and accurate information when submitting a claim to avoid delay.

You can call the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526 or visit for more information. Additional holiday safety tips are available from the State Fire Marshal’s office at

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