Holiday Safety Tips: Decorate for Christmas Without Creating a Fire Hazard

Don't let fire hazards stop you from enjoying your Christmas. Accidents can happen - lights, decorated trees, candles. Follow our tips and enjoy the season!

Holiday candles with exposed flame


Lights, candles . . . action!  It’s time to make your home look like a festive winter wonderland.  Before you pull down those boxes from the attic and start untangling those lights, make sure your decorating isn’t dangerous.  According to the ServiceMaster Restore and the American Red Cross, winter holiday fires claim more than 500 lives each year and cause approximately $554 million in property damage. To help keep your home and family safe, decorate with fire safety in mind: 

  • Always inspect light cords and extension cords before using to make sure they aren’t cracked or frayed.  Never use a cord that feels hot while plugged in.  Avoid running cords of any type underneath rugs and furniture.  Unplug all decorative lights, including Christmas tree lights, before leaving the house or before going to sleep. Pay attention to light manufacturers’ recommendations regarding how many strands should be connected, and whether the lights are intended for indoor or outdoor use.
  • To avoid a Christmas tree fire hazard, follow these safety tips:
    • When purchasing a live tree, look for a full, green tree.  Cut 1 inch to 2 inches from the base of the trunk right away and it into a stand with water.  Make sure your tree stand is sturdy, and keep the water in the stand refilled regularly.
    • Look for a “fire resistant” label when purchasing an artificial tree.
    • Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from heat sources, such as radiators, heating vents, fireplaces, or candles.
    • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant decorations and materials on the tree.  If you have some older or heirloom decorations that you aren’t sure meet this criteria, display them elsewhere.
    • Don’t hang onto your tree too long after Christmas. Find a recycling program in your community and dispose of it. 
  • Never leave a room where a candle is burning.  If you use candles in centerpieces or other decorations, place candles well away from flowers and greenery.  Always use a properly sized candle holder or base for each candle. Never use lighted candles in a Christmas tree.  Where possible, use battery-powered candles instead of real ones.
  • Make sure that the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  Never hang or drape stockings, garlands, or other holiday decorations near a fireplace opening or where sparks or embers could ignite them.  If you have any doubt about whether your stockings or decorations are too close to the flames, take down the decorations before lighting a fire.  Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected annually.
  • Avoid overloaded electrical circuits, which can be fire hazards.  Plan your interior and exterior lights around the locations of electrical outlets, and try to plug all strands directly into an outlet instead of using adapters and extension cords.  
  • Take care not to block window and door exits with decorations.  Even during the holidays, you may need access in case of emergency. 
  • Keep an eye on children and pets around holiday decorations.  They can accidentally knock over candles, damage cords and wires, as well as shift things out of position.

While you’ve got the ladder out to deck the halls, be sure to check all the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home to make sure they are working properly and have fresh batteries.  It’s also important to keep a working fire extinguisher in your home and make sure that everyone knows how to use it.  With a few simple precautions, you can make sure that your home is a magical and safe place for your family and friends to gather this holiday season.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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