Oregon State Fire Marshal
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News Releases
Tips to Ensure a Safe and Memorable Holiday Season - 12/11/19

The arrival of colder weather and holiday activities in December provides opportunities to keep your homes and family fire safe so everyone can have memorable times when decorating and entertaining. 

From 2014 through 2018, Oregon fire agencies reported there were 2,769 residential structure fires during the holiday period between November 22 and January 15. These fires were reported to have resulted in 24 deaths, 127 injuries, and more than $68 million in property and content loss. 

“The holiday season is a time when many Oregonians are enjoying families and friends in their homes and getting ready with decorating and other holiday traditions,” says State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. “Taking basic fire safe precautions will keep you and your loved ones safer from the dangers of fire and allow everyone to have a wonderful holiday experience.”

Tree Care and Decorating Tips:  

  • Choose a fresh, healthy holiday tree with a deep-green color and flexible needles. 
  • Water your tree daily — a tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day.
  • Make sure you have three feet between your holiday tree and any heating source. 
  • Ensure the tree is not blocking an exit, and that the decorations you use are flame resistant and flame retardant.
  • Use only non?combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.  

Electrical Safety:

  • Maintain your holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, and broken or cracked sockets.
  • Do not overload electrical sockets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the manufacturer’s directions indicate it is safe. 
  • Protect electrical cords from damage. To avoid shock or fire hazards, cords should never be pinched by furniture, placed under rugs, located near heat sources, or attached by nails or staples.
  • Make sure all extension cords and electrical decorations used outdoors are marked for outdoor use.

Candle Safety: 

  • Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look and smell like real candles.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended. Extinguish candles when you go to bed, leave a room, or before leaving the house.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn. Keep candles at least one foot from combustibles including clothing, curtains, upholstered furniture, greenery, and decorations. 
  • Always use a sturdy non-combustible (metal, glass, or ceramic) candleholder. If a sturdy non-combustible candleholder is not available, the candle can be placed on a non-combustible plate.
  • Place candles out of reach of small children and pets.
  • Avoid candles with items embedded in them such as twigs, flowers, or leaves. These items can ignite or even explode.
  • Always use a flashlight — not a candle — for emergency lighting.

General Fire Safety:

  • Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home (including the basement), in each bedroom, and in the hallway outside each bedroom.
  • If using a woodstove or fireplace, keep it screened at all times. Keep ribbons, boughs, and other decorative materials at least three feet away.
  • Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace or wood stove. Wrapping paper burns at higher temperatures than wood and can cause a chimney fire.
  • Keep combustibles at least three feet from heat sources.
  • Make a home fire escape plan and practice it with your family and any overnight guests.
  • Keep escape routes clear of clutter so you can escape quickly in case of fire.


Add Fire Safety to Your Holiday Menu - 11/19/19

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and State Fire Marshal Jim Walker wants to remind Oregonians to add fire safety to their cooking and holiday meal plans.

“The holiday is a time to give thanks and enjoy friends and family,” said Walker. “By following basic fire-prevention tips, you can keep yourself and loved ones safe and avoid cooking-related fires.”

In Oregon, cooking was the leading known cause of residential structure fires over the past five years (2013-17), causing an average of 19 percent of Oregon’s total residential structure fires, according to state fire agency data submitted to the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

On average, there are 533 cooking-caused residential structure fires in Oregon per year.

Statewide the range/stove was the most frequently reported equipment involved in cooking fires. Of these, 73 percent were from an electric-powered range/stove.

All told, there were 10 deaths in Oregon from residential cooking fires during the past five years, or an average of two deaths per year.

Cooking safety tips:

  • Don’t leave cooking food on your stovetop unattended, especially when frying and sautéing with oil.
  • While your turkey is cooking, check on it frequently.
  • Use a timer to monitor cooking times when simmering, baking, or roasting foods that require long cooking times. Check the stove or oven frequently.
  • Remember to keep items that may catch fire, like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels, at least three feet from the cooking area.
  • Roll up your shirt sleeves and avoid using clothing that may come in contact with open flames or other heat sources.
  • Don’t cook if you are drinking alcohol or using other substances that make you drowsy.
  • Keep children three feet or more away from all cooking areas, hot food, and liquids to avoid burns.
  • Keep pot and pan handles turned inward on the stove to avoid bumping them and spilling hot foods.
  • Heat cooking oil slowly and never leave it unattended.

If you have a cooking fire:

  • Always keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and don’t move the pan until it is completely cool.
  • Never pour water on a grease fire; it can splatter the grease and spread the fire.
  • In the event of a fire in your oven or microwave, turn the appliance off and keep the doors closed.
  • When in doubt, get out! Call 9-1-1 after you leave.

Make sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area, and in every bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace them if they are 10 years old or older.