The holidays are usually a time of happiness and joy spent celebrating with family and friends. Unfortunately, there are approximately 200 Christmas tree fires or fires related to holiday decorations annually. On average, these Christmas tree fires resulted in 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and nearly $15 million in direct property damage each year.
In addition to Christmas tree fires, strands of lights, menorahs, and many other holiday decorations all have the potential to start fires that cause smoke damage and soot damage. Our Christmas tree and holiday decoration fire safety guide will help keep you and your family safe this holiday season. From Christmas trees to menorahs, we outline the safest way to celebrate this holiday season.
Christmas Tree Fires
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 40% of Christmas tree fires are started by an electrical source, including strands of lights or issues with electrical outlets, extension cords, or power strips. 26% of holiday fires are caused by candles or some other source of heat or flame. These fires also account for 80% of deaths related to Christmas tree fires.
Regardless of the source of ignition, most holiday fires involve Christmas trees. As live Christmas trees age, they are likely to dry out without regular watering. This leaves them in a state that is conducive to fires, which can quickly get out of control.
In order to limit the risk of a Christmas tree fire, the NFPA recommends water live trees every single day. Keep Christmas trees at least 3 feet away from all sources of heat, including space heaters, candles, and heat vents. Never decorate any Christmas tree, live or artificial, with candles, as they are extremely likely to start a fire.
Fires Caused by Other Holiday Decorations
In addition to Christmas trees, there are many types of decorations that can also cause fires during the holiday season. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day are the top three days for candle-related fires in the home.
For that reason, the NFPA advises you never leave candles burning unattended. This includes decorative candles, menorahs, and candles on the dinner table. Always supervise children and pets when candles are lit and keep lighters and matches stored safely out of reach.
You should also take precautions when decorating the outside of your home. Only use lights intended for exterior use and follow all manufacturers instructions. Limit the use of extension cords and only use items intended for use outside. Whether indoor or outdoor, never overload an outlet, extension cord, power strip, or circuit. Overloading any electrical item increases the chances of fire and electrocution.
While hanging stockings around the fireplace are traditional, never leave holiday decorations hanging above or near any fireplace while it’s lit. Review our fireplace safety guide for more tips on preventing fires when using your fireplace.
Christmas Tree Disposal Fires
While you may not think about Christmas tree fires once you take your down your tree, but 37% of all Christmas tree fires occur in January. When disposing of your Christmas tree, avoid storing it in or near your home or garage for any period of time.
If you do need to store it, keep it outside and at least 5 feet from your home, garage, or any other structure. Also, consider completely soaking it with either a hose or several buckets of water to reduce the risk of fire.
How to Prevent Christmas Tree Fires
- When purchasing a live Christmas tree, look for trees with bright green needles that do not fall off easily. Avoid trees with brown needles or that show other signs that they have already begun to dry out.
- Cut the tree trunk at a 45° angle and place in a large, heavy base that will hold a large amount of water.
- Water live Christmas trees and any other live holiday decorations every day to prevent them from drying out.
- Keep Christmas trees and other holiday decorations at least 3 feet away from heat sources including space heaters, candles, heat vents, radiators, and fireplaces.
- Never decorate Christmas trees or other live holiday decorations with lit candles, as they pose a significant fire risk.
- Avoid leaving Christmas tree lights and decorations on when you are sleeping or not home.
Other Holiday Fire Safety Tips
Keep your friends and family safe this holiday season with our list of fire safety tips.
- Only use electric decorations that have been certified by an independent and nationally recognized testing laboratory. This includes light strands, pre-lit artificial Christmas trees, and other electrical or light-up holiday decorations.
- Only use lights and other light-up holiday decorations as intended. This includes only using exterior lights outside and interior lights inside.
- Inspect all light strands and other light-up decorations before using them. Check the light bulbs, power cords, and the plug for signs of wear or damage. Dispose of items with frayed wires, loose bulb connections, or broken plugs.
- Use clips instead of nails when hanging stands of lights or other electrical decorations. This decreases the potential for damaging the wires and decreases the risk electrocution or fire.
- Never leave lights or other electric decorations on while you are sleeping or not home.
- When hanging lights or other decorations outdoors, use only exterior grade extension cords.
- Always read the manufacturer’s instructions on the maximum number of light strands you can string together.
- Avoid blocking doorways with Christmas trees or other holiday decorations. This ensures that your family and guests can safely and quickly evacuate in the event of a fire.
- Keep candles and menorahs at least 12 inches away from flammable items, including plants, fabrics, paper, and other decorations.
- Consider using battery powered LED candles, especially in high traffic areas like dinner tables, buffets, and around Christmas trees or other live holiday decorations.
- If you do use regular candles, use heavy, stable candle holders and place them in areas where they cannot be knocked down easily.
Basic Fire Safety Tips
- Use the test button on every smoke detector in your home to ensure they work properly. Replace the battery if the unit does not go off.
- Check your fire extinguishes and make sure the unit has not expired. Review the operating instructions so you know what to do in the event of a fire.
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets and circuits, both inside and outside of your property.
- Always supervise children and pets around candles, matches, and lighters and never leave candles burning unattended.
Keeping Your Family Safe in the Event of Christmas Tree or Holiday Fire
If a Christmas tree or other type or fire happens around the holidays, your primary goal should be the safe evacuation of your family and guests. Fires can be stressful, but try to remain calm. No matter the size or cause of a holiday fire, always call 911 immediately.
While calling 911, begin evacuating your family and friends. Avoid trying to save material possessions and direct everyone to leave the premises as safely and calmly as possible. If possible, use your fire extinguisher to slow the fire while everyone evacuates.
Keep the nozzle pointed at the fire and sweep it back and forth, spraying in an even layer. First and foremost, your goal should be the safe evacuate of your family. Never take risks when fighting a fire.
What to do After a Christmas Tree or Other Holiday Decoration Fire
If you have fire damage after a Christmas tree or other type of holiday decoration fire, it’s important to clean up quickly to limit the damage. Smoke and soot are highly acidic and can leave permanent stains in as little as a few hours. Water from firefighting efforts can also cause damage or even lead to mold problems.
Let Restoration Local give you peace of mind in an emergency. As the #1 network of restoration companies, we can connect with a local fire damage restoration professional to clean up and restore your home or business after a holiday decoration or Christmas Tree fire.
Choose a local fire damage cleanup company from our directory or call 1-888-443-3110 now to talk with our nearest on-call contractor. Our on-call fire damage restoration companies offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response time, and a free estimate.