Have you actually ever roasted chestnuts by an open fire?  Not many of us have, but in order to do so, you need a fire.

As we continue our series on the “5 P’s of Cold Weather Safety”, we are going to jump ahead to “Practice Fire Safety” as many people may be lighting up a fireplace, bonfire, candles, or will turn on portable heaters this weekend in response to the latest cold snap.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), half of all house fires in the U.S. happen between December and February. The height of this peak season is the holidays (Thanksgiving through New Years).  It should probably come as no surprise that this coincides with winter’s chill, but also some festive celebration.  We often get tempted (or in some cases, necessitated) to cozy up by a nice warm fire or add a little flame or warmth to liven up the atmosphere.  In most cases, these activities don’t have to be dangerous or result in calamity.  Let’s take a look at some of the most common problem areas.

Learn More: NFPA – Holiday Fire Safety

1.) Candles.  Everyone’s heart warms at the sight of a flickering candle flame.  Many people like to add a little ambiance to the holidays with candles, especially of the candlestick variety.  Naturally, any open flame within a structure is dangerous.  We need to make sure there’s nothing nearby the candle that can come in contact with the flame.  Also be sure to ensure the candlestick is stable and cannot fall over and touch something flammable.  Candles should always be attended; put them out when leaving the room.  The best solution? Use electric candles.

Learn More: NFPA – Candle Safety

2.) Fireplaces / Bonfires. Ahh, the crackling sound of a wood fire.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  Before you go lighting up a log in the fireplace, ask yourself, “Is it ready?”  When is the last time you used that fireplace?  When is the last time that the chimney has been professionally cleaned?  Is the flue open?  Many chimney fires start from lack of cleaning, maintenance, misuse or some furry creature has made its home inside.

A wood fire must always be attended.  It’s too easy for a stick or log to fall out, or an ember fly about.  There should be at least 3 feet of clear non-flammable space in front of  the fire to prevent the it from spreading.  Have a fire extinguisher or water supply handle in case something goes wrong.

Learn More: NFPA – Put A Freeze on Winter Fires

3.) Portable Heaters.  Use only modern UL-listed heating devices designed for the application your are using it.  Read and follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.  Some people try to get creative to stay warm and use devices in locations there were not designed for.  For example, that portable kerosene or propane blast heater from the barn or work site is not intended to be used indoor a house.   The two main concerns with portable heaters are fire erupting among combustibles nearby or carbon monoxide poisoning.  Keep a safe space around the heater and make sure it operating properly.  Purchase and install fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors.

Learn More: NFPA – Heating Safety

There any many other ways that fire can occur: electrical issues, dry Christmas trees, burnt food, and more.  We encourage you to follow the links we’ve provided to learn more.


  1. Plan ahead with temperature, wind, and wind chill forecasts from your favorite WeatherSTEM site.
  2. Set up Personalized Notifications with your WeatherSTEM account (Get a log in, it’s FREE!) to alert you on your preferred device when temperatures or wind chill values reach desired trigger levels. Learn: App Personalization
  3. Download the WeatherSTEM app to lookup current conditions at your favorite WeatherSTEM site. Note that WeatherSTEM automatically calculates Wind Chill for you on our station websites and in the mobile app.
  4. Watch more Lessons in our Learn library about cold weather science and safety.


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