The quintessential winter holiday is all about family, elaborate home-cooked meals, hot cocoa, a white wonderland of snow outside and a toasty fire inside. But there are many dangers associated with all that cooking, Christmas lighting, dried pine needles, candles and more. Here in South Florida, we may still have the central air blasting in late December, but that doesn’t mean we’re free of holiday fire hazard risks.
The American Red Cross reports some 47,000 fires occur during winter holidays nationally, causing some 500 deaths, 2,200 injuries and costing nearly $555 million in property damage. Some fast facts:
- On average, 1 in every 22 home fires started by a Christmas tree end in death;
- An average of 40 fires daily during the holidays are caused by children playing;
- Fires started by candles are four times more likely to occur in winter than during any other season.
A number of fire departments across Florida have been working to drive home the importance of Christmas tree protection, candle safety, working smoke detection systems and how important it is to keep matches and lighters out of reach of children on long holiday breaks.
Recently in Tampa, fire officials with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue conducted a demonstration revealing how instantaneously a decorated Christmas tree could go up in flames. Literally, it happens in seconds. The same could easily occur with a candle that’s been tipped over.
Meanwhile, turkey fryers can result in explosive fires that could cause immediate and severe burns to anyone standing nearby.
Fire rescue crews in Escambia conducted the same demonstration, and encouraged everyone to make sure they:
- Knew at least two safe exits out of their homes in case of a fire;
- Kept bedroom doors shut at night to stall the spread of fire and smoke from one room to another;
- Never put a frozen turkey in a turkey fryer;
- Check their smoke alarms twice annually and replace the batteries.
Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers know that when these types of incidents do occur, it can leave families reeling and individuals may be left concerned about how they will pay for medical bills. This is why it’s such a good idea to keep and maintain a good homeowners’ insurance or renters’ insurance policy. That type of coverage can be a huge relief to families struck by unexpected disaster.
In cases where individuals are injured or killed by holiday fires while visiting friends or relatives or as a result of negligence by a property owner, the legal theory on which plaintiffs may recover is called premises liability. The idea is that property owners are responsible to keep their property in reasonably safe condition for guests. That means ensuring candles are closely monitored, live trees are regularly watered and not allowed to dry out (making them more susceptible to catch fire) and safe cooking practices are followed. Failure to do so is a form of negligence, and they may be held liable for damages.
In many cases, it is not the property owner themselves that actually pay this amount. Instead, once their liability is established, the insurance company that has a duty to indemnify them would step in and pay the damages.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Christmas trees, turkey fryers among holiday dangers, Dec. 11, 2015, By Jennifer Titus, ABC 10 News
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