Fire safety experts warn us that the holidays are the peak season for home fires. I know in my house, many rooms have candles this time of year. And the fireplace gets utilized much more frequently than normal. Combine a Christmas tree, with gifts being stockpiled, and add a dog into the mix, and the possibility of something getting knocked over is multiplied ten-fold.

Fireplaces, and wood burning stoves: There are two essentials for safety and comfort. 1) Make sure your flue, or discharge pipe, is clean and free of creosote build-up. If not, this black material (which sticks to the inside of your flue) can ignite, causing a fire inside the pipe. You are best served to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional. Usually once a year is sufficient, but it may depend on how frequently you burn, and what kind of wood is fueling the fire. And 2) keep your fireplace screen closed when burning a fire. (This is something my wife completely ignores.) Many times the wood will combust and shoot out of the fireplace, which is surrounded by paper or carpeting. Keep the Christmas tree stockings at a safe distance from flames. And be certain fires are out or closed-up before you go to bed.

Candles: Candles provide beautiful lighting, whether in the dining room, hallways, or perched on mantels. But they are easily forgotten as they slowly burn. You should keep candles at least a foot away from anything that could burn…napkins, table cloth, stockings, gift-wrap, or other flammable decorations. Utilize a sturdy base (candle holders) that won’t tip over. Remember to extinguish candles when you leave the room. And make sure someone blows them out before bedtime.

– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: ; or online at: