Decorating homes is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase chances of fire.
The National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration estimate that 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires resulted in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
Learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in your home. Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees.
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,800 people for falls, cuts, shocks, and burns due to incidents involving faulty holiday lights, dried-out Christmas trees and other holiday decorations
Make your holiday a safe one.
When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.
When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. Needles should be hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers, the trunk butt should be sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
Place trees away from fireplaces and radiators and be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
Indoors or outdoors, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA. Use only newer lights that have thicker wiring and are required to have safety fuses to prevent overheating.
Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use and plug them in only ground-fault circuit interrupter. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended use.
Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks).
Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights.
Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
Turn off all holiday lights (electric and candles) when you go to bed or leave the house.
Candles and other decorations:
Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
Keep burning candles within sight.
Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles out of reach of children and pets.
Take special care to avoid sharp or breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
To avoid eye and skin irritation, wear gloves when decorating with spun glass “angel hair.”
To avoid lung irritation, follow container directions while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
Use care with “fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that, if eaten, can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting. Keep them away from children.
Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace.
Place a screen around your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby flammable materials.