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Festive period also a time of fires and break-ins

Last December Zavarovalnica Triglav recorded 65% more fires in apartment buildings than the monthly average

In winter time, a number of hazards lie in wait for us at home – ones we don’t think about until it’s too late. These include holiday decorations catching fire, chimney fires and burglaries. Zavarovalnica Triglav are recording a significant year-on-year rise in these types of claim in December and January. This trend is also confirmed by figures from the National Notification Centre.

According to figures from Zavarovalnica Triglav, the holiday month of December presents more fire dangers than other months. “Last December we recorded 65% more fires in apartment buildings than the monthly average. In 2016 that figure was 91%,” explained Boris Kuhelj, head of the regional claims centre at Zavarovalnica Triglav. A similar trend is recurring from year to year, with January being the prominent month after December. In 2016 and 2017 the insurer saw almost 30% of claims from fire damage in December and January alone.


Figures from the National Notification Centre paint a similar picture: in December 2016 they recorded twice as many fires as the monthly average in that year, and in January 2017 three times as many.


Christmas decorations among the most common causes of fires with minor damage

Appraisers at Zavarovalnica Triglav also mention trees, wreaths and other popular forms of decoration catching fire as one of the main causes of fire during the festive period. These fires are not found in the Notification Centre’s statistics as the people affected are usually able to extinguish the fire themselves. Damage nevertheless occurs: “Burnt furniture and floor coverings and damage to walls and ceilings are the most common consequences of small fires, with the costs of the damage ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand euros,” says Boris Kuhelj.


A few things have to be considered if you want your holidays to pass off safely. According to Dr Aleš Jug, deputy chair of the Prevention Committee of the Firefighting Association of Slovenia, families should place their wreaths and Christmas trees at least one metre away from potential sources of ignition, including ovens, stoves, lights and electrical radiators – and they should never be placed by the only exit from a room or anywhere where they might be knocked over. Wreaths should be placed on a non-combustible base, with battery-powered lights being safer than candles. With wreaths and trees alike, they should only be illuminated with adults present.


“Ordinary coloured bulbs with a filament should not be placed near combustible decorations or on Christmas trees. Another danger is fire caused by electrical leads that connect Christmas lights. Cheap products with thin electrical leads are particularly dangerous. They tend to overheat if the lights are left on for longer periods,” warned Dr Jug.


But despite your best efforts, things do catch fire. In such cases, a fire extinguisher should always be available to tackle an initial fire caused by Christmas decorations. “The most suitable are foam or water mist extinguishers that extinguish electrical lights, and they also cause the least damage,” he explained.


It is also important that you know how to assess when you are able to extinguish a fire yourself. “A tree fire will spread upwards quickly and give off a large amount of heat. Combustible substances next to the tree will also catch fire. A fire can therefore quickly become uncontrollable, even if you use a fire extinguisher,” said Dr Jug.


Other dangers lurk at home during the holidays 

In the cold winter months, chimney fires are another main reason why firefighters might be called out. According to figures from the Firefighting Association of Slovenia, around 500 such fires occur every year, caused mostly by the ignition of soot, sparks and the inadequate technical condition of chimneys. “The colder it is, the more people turn the heating up. This means that heating appliances are made to work harder, increasing their temperature as well as that of the surroundings. Soot in the chimney can therefore catch fire more quickly and, thanks to overheating, can start burning inflammable objects close to chimneys and ovens,” explained Boris Kuhelj.


According to figures from Zavarovalnica Triglav, as with fires, the number of burglaries increases during the holiday season. Last December there were 37% more burglaries than the monthly average, although it is pleasing to note that the number of burglaries recorded by the insurer has fallen in the last two years.


A further cause of damage to property and a ruined holiday is a lack of care when handling fireworks and disposing of hot ash, which can set fire to the content of rubbish bins.


By recognising the most common holiday or winter-time hazards to home and family, and observing a few simple rules to prevent these hazards from becoming a reality, the holidays can pass off without any unpleasant complications. It is up to each individual and each family to make sure this happens.


Useful links:

Statistics on fires in apartment buildings – Zavarovalnica Triglav figures for 2013–2018.

Statistics on burglaries in apartment buildings – Zavarovalnica Triglav figures for 2013–2018.

Advent wreaths can also be dangerous more on the dangers of Christmas decorations and on how to guard against them.

Infographics: What dangers lurk in your home during the holidays? – Further interesting information on the various dangers, in addition to those presented by Christmas decorations, that are present at home during the holiday season.

In-depth story of fires – Further useful tips on how to prevent fires at home – and what to do during and after a fire.

Soot catches fire in the chimney of a residential building – More tips on how to protect yourself so that your home does not become part of the statistics this winter.


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