Christmas Fire Safety

The Christmas season brings with it some unique fire hazards. No one wants to be burdened with worry about whether they are inviting family and friends to a safe setting, so we recommend you take just a small amount of time to review some potential hazards. 

Christmas Trees

Keep the tree watered.

Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually, some which result in death and injury. Typical causes are short circuits in the electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches. Dry and neglected trees are the primary problem.

During one test fire, a green Scotch pine was felled, the cut an additional two inches from the trunk's bottom, and placed in a stand with at least a two-gallon water capacity. The tree's water was maintained on a daily basis. A single match could not ignite the tree, nor could an electric current igniting an entire matchbook. An open flame from a propane torch briefly ignited a branch, but it self-extinguished when the researchers removed the torch flame.

When these same researchers applied a flame to a dry tree, it was completely ablaze within three seconds. At five seconds, the fire extended up the tree and sent black smoke and hot gases across the ceiling. It was hot enough that furnishings and the carpet ignited prior to any direct flame contact. Within 40 seconds a "flash over" occurred, which is when an entire room erupts into flames. At this point anyone in the structure would be in extreme danger or already unconscious and/or terribly burned.

Christmas Tree Fire

Other Decorations and Lighting

  • Choose holiday decorations made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and always have a person in attendance in rooms with burning candles (especially if there are pets in the structure).
  • Use lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Inspect new and previously used light strings before use each season and replace damaged items.
  • Always unplug lights to replace bulbs or fuses.
  • Make certain any extension cords are rated to handle the amount of electricity being supplied.
  • Mount lighting so the cord's wire insulation is protected from damage
  • Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Make certain there are functioning smoke alarms installed.

Cat Curious About Flame

Holiday Entertaining

  • Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States. When cooking for holidays, keep a watchful eye on items in the oven or on the range.
  • Provide necessary ashtrays for smoking guests; make sure they are large, deep and emptied often.
  • Since cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, be sure to completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding. 
  • After your celebration has ended, check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).
  • When smokers visit your home, ask them to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.