Safety Tips from the Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council
Halloween Fire and Costume Safety
Halloween is a time of play, decorations, dress-up and trick-or-treating.
But with this excitement comes the risk of fires and burns from ignition sources
such as candles and jack-o-lanterns, if they come into even momentary contact with
certain Halloween costumes.
The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) provides this fire safety
message in the hope of reducing fires and burn injuries during Halloween festivities.
Candle fires are, sadly, all too common. Fire data show that nationally about 3,400
candle-related burn injuries are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year. Concern rises from the increased exposure to candle fires around Halloween, with children – and increasingly adults - wearing loose-fitting, baggy or billowing costumes. These costumes ignite and burn fiercely, resulting in a very real risk of serious burn injuries.
For increased Halloween fire safety, follow this costume safety advice from NASFM:
- Avoid flowing and loose-fitting costumes, as well as masked and over-the-head
designs, which can impede vision or make removal difficult in the event of fire.
Costumes that are snug or form-fitting are less likely to come into contact with
ignition sources and children are also less likely to trip over them while walking.
- Look for labels that indicate the costume is made of flame-resistant materials. These
costumes, if they come into contact with a flame, are supposed to stop burning if the
flame is removed.
- If you cannot find a label indicating flame resistance, choose costumes that are made
primarily of polyester or nylon fabric. Such fabrics typically do not ignite from a
small flame and if they do, the resulting fire may burn slowly and readily extinguish.
If you are making costumes from scratch, choose polyester or nylon fabrics for
greater flame resistance.
- Costumes made from cotton, rayon, acetate or their blends can be more dangerous
because these fabrics are inherently more flammable. If not treated to be flame
resistant, such costumes may ignite quickly if they brush across or into a small open
flame or very hot surface. Avoid costumes made of these types of fabrics.
- The addition of fake fur, stringy strands, lace trim, ornamentation, added padding and
foam, imprinted or stenciled designs and flimsy material can make any costume more
flammable and increase a wearer’s fire risk. Such designs should be avoided.
- Always supervise children as they go trick or treating, taking special care to avoid lit
candles and jack-o-lanterns, high heat or flaming decorations.
- If a costume does catch fire, remember to “Stop, Drop and Roll.” This serves to keep
flames away from the upper body, neck and facial areas. It also helps to slow or
reduce flame spread and smother the flames.
- When you decorate for Halloween, use battery operated or electric lights that have
been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. Check each set of lights,
new or old, for damage. Throw out damaged sets.
- Do not use candles or other open flames, inside or outside. Keep any small open
flames away from curtains, decorations or other objects that could catch fire.
- Do not overload extension cords.
Floyd Peoples, Chief Fire Marshal, Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department, 816-784-9100
Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council, 9550 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66212