Holiday hazards – Christmas tree spruce leaks and fires started by candles[Kristel Kobi | 22.12.2021 :]
Fire and soot damage from burning candles, accidents involving cookers and ovens, and floor damage caused by leaking Christmas tree stands top the list of accidents this coming festive season, according to Seesam’s statistics.
“Regular home insurance events are caused by leaking or burst pipes and theft, but during the holiday season, people tend to stay in and the nature of accidents changes. Winter accidents are characterised by burning and fires as, in addition to commonplace wood furnaces, forgotten Christmas roasts, flammable decorations placed too close to burning candles and leaking Christmas tree stands can all prove hazardous,” says Seesam’s property insurance manager Kristel Kobi about the most common accidents that take place around the holidays.
Trendy table decorations and candles do not mix
Candlelight is perfect for creating a cosy atmosphere during these darker months, but decorating trends and carelessness often contribute to fires started by candles. According to the insurer, outdoor candles that seem harmless enough are often positioned on the terrace or outside too close to the wall of the building or other flammable materials and left to burn unsupervised. The same applies to candles, which, when surrounded by decorations, can spark a major disaster. “We often see cases where long candles are allowed to burn too short so that decorations placed at the bottom catch fire. In less severe cases, the table and floor take a hit and damages amount to a few thousand euros, but damage can be much costlier than that when we combine eye-catching table decorations and candles.
During the holidays it is also common to see accidents where a candle is left burning on the windowsill and the plastic frame starts to melt. Fortunately, smoke detectors have sounded the alarm and families have managed to escape with nothing more than a fright, some bad odours and a melted window frame. Last Advent Season, however, I recall there was an incident where a small child added toys to a burning candle inside a glass jar, which then immediately caught on fire and caused soot damage,” says Kobi of candle-related insured events.
Open flame is not always the cause of fires during the holidays. Every year, there are fires caused by faulty wires of electric Christmas decorations. Seesam’s claims handler gives an example from personal experience where short-circuiting outdoor decorations attached to the house almost started a catastrophic fire. Luckily, they were in the right place at the right time and managed to prevent the worst-case scenario. Kobi recommends investing in high-quality Christmas lights for a safe holiday season.
“It’s also a good idea to check the lights on the Christmas tree, because in the event of an accident, a dry tree will burn like a sparkler and the fire will quickly take on huge proportions,” warns the insurer.
Beware of exploding juices and leaking Christmas tree stands
As ovens and cookers are in use during the Christmas period, many accidents involve these appliances too. It is fairly common for Christmas roasts to be forgotten in the oven amidst all the merriment, and people remain blissfully unaware of the accident until the room starts filling up with smoke.
“Last holiday season, we saw quite a few accidents with damage to cookers and ovens partly caused by heavy clay and cast iron cookware. People don’t use them on a daily basis and are thus not accustomed to taking into account their weight,” Kobi points out.
Christmas is also the time to serve canned garden produce and juices. If this is the case, you need to make sure that older jars/bottles are opened with extreme caution. The insurer recalls an incident from last year, when a bottle of apple juice that had gone bad burst in the kitchen, damaging the walls, ceiling and even the blinds.
“Holiday-related damage also includes harm caused by leaking Christmas tree stands. As there is often a carpet or linen under the tree, water damage is not immediately visible. This allows the water to infiltrate the flooring for quite a long time, and when it’s finally time to take the tree outside, the damage to the floor becomes apparent. Even if you think there’s nothing to worry about, it’s still a good idea to check the condition of the Christmas tree and the water from time to time,” the insurer suggests.