Holiday Fire Safety

For many, decorating the home to welcome the holiday season is a steadfast tradition. However, with bright lights and spirited adornments comes an increased risk of fire hazards both inside and outside the home. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that in 2006, roughly 128,700 December and holiday fires were reported. Families should practice holiday fire safety by being alert and mindful of potential fire risks, and avoiding them as much as possible.

Christmas Tree Fires

While relatively uncommon, Christmas tree fires can be a unique holiday risk. When Christmas tree fires do occur, they often cause significant property damage, injury to families, and even death. There are a number of steps families can take to prevent Christmas tree fires. When selecting an artificial tree, families are urged to look for fire resistant models that extinguish quickly.

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following tips to prevent Christmas tree fires:

  • When selecting a live tree, look for the freshest and greenest available
  • Keep the Christmas tree well-watered to maintain hydration and reduce flammability
  • Never place lit candles on or near a tree
  • Avoid putting the tree up too early or leaving it up after the holidays
  • Ensure that all tree decorations are flame-retardant and away from heating vents and exits
  • Never attach spotlights to a tree; instead, fasten them beside or above the tree

Holiday Lighting Safety

Lighting can be a significant fire hazard during the holidays. When decorating the exterior of the home, families should ensure that all lights receive testing laboratory approval for outside use. All lights, old and new, should be checked for cracked or broken sockets, bare or frayed wires, and loose connections. All damaged sets should be returned or discarded. When replacing bulbs, be sure to use those with the same wattage. Avoid stapling or mailing light strings, as this may damage cords.

Electric Shock Protection

Electrical outlets should never be overloaded with too many extension cords or decorations. As a general rule of thumb, no more than three standard light sets should be attached to one extension cord. Outdoor lighting should be plugged into circuits that are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for added protection.

Holiday Fire Safety Tips

Additional holiday fire safety tips include:

  • Avoid leaving on unattended holiday lights
  • Never place wrapping paper in a fireplace, as this may throw off sparks and embers
  • Use only flame retardant holiday decorations around the home
  • Consider using flameless battery-operated candles instead of traditional candles
  • Never leave candles unattended or in areas where they may be knocked over
  • Move candles away from flammable objects such as ribbons, wrapping paper, gift bags, and evergreen decorations
  • Be mindful that loose clothing can catch fire – therefore, candles and other fire hazards should be kept out of reach