(WASHINGTON) — The next two weeks are the most dangerous time of the year for house fires, according to fire safety experts. From Dec. 23 through Dec. 25, and Dec. 26 through New Year’s, the chances of a candlelit fire soar more than 300 percent.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), new homes — built with and stuffed full of synthetic materials — burn up six times faster than older homes built 50 years ago.
According to FEMA, fire deaths have been down two percent in the past five years, but deaths from accidental fires have gone up 18 percent. Cooking fires are up 16 percent.
While synthetic materials have made household construction and products sturdier and cheaper, they’re also more flammable. And technology has been slow to respond. Mattresses, however, once the chief killer in fires, seem to be an exception. They are now designed to burn more slowly. Some mattresses ABC News tested at the Underwriters Labs were nearly self-extinguishing.
But the real lifesaver in a fire, Tom Chapin, vice president of corporate research for Underwriters Lab says, is awareness. A smoke detector with working batteries is likely the best bet.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio