Halloween safety: Avoid fire hazards with decorations, wear safe costumes

If you don’t keep fire safety in mind, Halloween and fall decorations can add an increased fire danger to your home, fire officials warned.

Each year from 2017 to 2019, an estimated average of 9,200 fires were reported to fire departments in the U.S. over a three-day period around Halloween, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

These fires caused an estimated annual average of 25 deaths, 100 injuries and $117 million in property loss, the USFA said.

The National Fire Protection Association reported that decorations were the first thing to ignite in about 800 reported home fires each year. More than two of every five of these fires occurred because the decorations were too close to a heat source, such as a candle or hot equipment, the NFPA said.

“Halloween is an exciting time for kids, and talking to them about fire safety before heading out to search for all the yummy goodies is extremely important,” Illinois State Fire Marshal James A. Rivera said. “Explain and guide your trick-or-treaters away from any open flames in jack-o-lanterns, and keep their costumes away from a heating source. Use glow sticks to add an even spookier feel to your jack-o-lanterns, helping trick-or-treaters visiting your porch stay safe.”

Taking a few simple steps will help to create a spooky season that doesn’t turn into a scary situation.

  • Use a battery-operated candle or glow stick in jack-o-lanterns.
  • When choosing costumes, avoid long trailing fabric.
  • If your children are wearing a costume mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so the child can see out.
  • Teach children to stay away from open flames, including jack-o-lanterns with candles in them.
  • Be sure children know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire.
  • Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources such as light bulbs and heaters.
  • Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
  • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations so nothing blocks escape routes.
  • Make sure all smoke alarms are working.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also offered these insights for safer Halloween celebrations:

Here are additional tips offered by health and safety experts:

  • Wear costumes with “flame resistant” on the label. If you make a DIY costume, use flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon.
  • Wear bright, reflective costumes or add strips of reflective tape so you’ll be more visible when crossing streets.
  • Wear makeup and hats rather than costume masks that can obscure your vision.
  • Test the makeup you plan to use at least 24-48 hours in advance to avoid allergic reactions.
  • Vibrantly colored makeup is popular at Halloween. Check the FDA’s list of color additives to see if the colors are FDA approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use them. This is especially important for colored makeup around the eyes.
  • Don’t wear decorative (colored) contact lenses that appear to change how your eyes look due to the risk of eye injury unless you have seen an eye care professional for a proper fitting and been given instructions for how to use the lenses.