Holiday Safety: Holiday and Christmas Decoration Fires

Candles, Christmas lights, and other holiday decorations create a festive glow, but if not handled appropriately, they can also create a dangerous fire hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), property losses from Christmas tree fires have increased from $18 million to $19 million between 2008 and 2010.  During that same time frame, candle fires have resulted in 74 deaths and $347 million in property losses.  The division director of Government Affairs for the NFPA says, "Christmas and the days around it are typically some of the top days for home fires."  Common causes of holiday home fires and burn injuries include dry evergreen trees and clippings, burns from open flame candles, damaged strings of lights, turkey-fryer fires, heater fires, and unattended fireplaces. The NFPA and the Unites States Fire Administration (USFA) say that each year, there are nearly 400 home fires related to holiday decorations--240 involving Christmas trees and another 150  involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting. These fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage annually. These organizations issue safety tips to combat the most common holiday fire hazards. First and foremost, the NFPA says, is to keep trees watered. A dry Christmas tree is much more flammable than a regularly watered tree. The following video released by the NFPA shows a dramatic difference in the flammability of a dry Christmas tree and a watered tree: httpv:// In addition to selecting a fresh tree and keeping it most through frequent and regular watering, there are other safety considerations to help prevent holiday fires:

  • Maintain holiday lights and do not use strands with frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets and do not link more than three strands of lights unless the directions explicitly state that it is safe to do so.
  • Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
  • Use only nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations.
  • Do not block exits with Christmas trees or holiday decorations.
  • Do not place wrapping paper in a fireplace.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Place lit candles where they cannot be easily knocked down or tipped over, and keep them at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Never put lit candles on a tree, and do not approach the tree while holding anything with an open flame, including candles, lighters, and matches.
Many holiday fires can be avoided through proper safety precautions.  However, if you or a loved one suffer burn injuries from another's negligence, you may be eligible for compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.