• Winter Safety

    Festive celebrations, flickering lights, and winter greens are hallmarks of the holiday season, but they also present fire risks that can quickly turn this festive time of year into a devastating one.
     
    Holiday decorations
    • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 840 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2011-2015. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian fire deaths, 36 civilian fire injuries and $11.4 million in direct property damage.

    • Ten percent of decoration fires were intentional.

    • The decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment in two of every five (42%) fires.

    • More than one-fifth (21%) of the decoration fires started in the kitchen. Fifteen percent started in the living room, family room or den.

    • One-fifth (19%) of the home decoration fires occurred in December. 

     
    Candles
    • Candles started more than one-third (36%) of home decoration structure fires. 

    • More than half (55%) of the December home decoration fires were started by candles, compared to one-third (32%) in January to November.

    • The top three days for home candle fires were Christmas, New Year’s Day, and New Year's Eve.

     
    Holiday cooking
    • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by the day before Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

    • Cooking equipment was involved in 19% of home decoration fires. This can happen when a decoration is left on or too close to a stove or other cooking equipment.

     
    Fireworks
    • Ten percent of fireworks fires occur during the period from December 30 through January 3, with the peak on New Year's Day.

    Source: NFPA's "Fireworks" report
     
     
    Christmas trees:
    • Between 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 200 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually.
    • On average, one of every 32 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires.
    • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in two of every five (40%) of home Christmas tree fires.
    • In one-quarter (26%) of the Christmas tree fires and in 80% of the deaths, some type of heat sources, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree. One quarter (24%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
    • Forty-two percent of reported home Christmas tree fires occurred in December and 37% were reported in January.
    • More than one-third (37%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
     
    Picking the Tree 
    • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

     
    Placing the Tree
    • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2" from the base of the trunk.
    • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
    • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
    • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
     
    Lighting the Tree
    • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
    • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer's instructions for the number of light strands to connect.
    • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree
    • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
     
    After Christmas — Get rid of the tree after Christmas. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.