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Let’s talk about fire safety that centers around two special Christmas traditions: Christmas Trees and Christmas lights. If we identify the risks related to these traditions, we can offer simple adjustments to our habits and a few practical tips that can contribute to a warm, cozy, and safe holiday season.

“Oh Christmas Tree” Fire Prevention Tips:

As with all fire safety, examining prevention of Christmas tree fires involves identifying risk factors. What can cause a Christmas tree to catch on fire?

Christmas Tree Lights Dec 2022 GVFD 2
  • Heat sources such as fireplaces, lamps, candles, radiators, and heat vents should be at least three feet away from the Approximately one in five Christmas tree fires occur due to a heat source too close to the tree. Candles are the leading cause of Christmas tree fires. In fact, we recommend use only battery-operated candles that have no flame and look and smell like candles. Candles that have a flame should be placed three feet away from the tree in sturdy holders to prevent tipping or being knocked over. As with all fire safety, never leave a burning object such as a candle unattended.
  • All Christmas tree decorations should be non-flammable. Christmas tree lights should be certified and approved by a nationally recognized lab such as Underwriter’s The American National Institute of Standards Institute sets the safety standards for Christmas tree lights. Turn lights out when not at home or going to bed.
  • As we have seen in forest fires, dry trees present as a source of fuel for fire. Christmas trees are no different. When buying a tree check to see that the needles are green and spring when A live tree should be placed in water. Prior to placing the tree in the stand cut two to three inches off the bottom. This allows for better water absorption. Place the tree in water immediately. Replace water for the tree daily. In a controlled fire demonstration, a dry Christmas tree exposed to a heat source, a flame, had its branches engulfed by flames in 25 seconds. Within 10 seconds of the branches being engulfed, the nearby furniture and ceiling is on fire. Flashover (fire overtaking the entire area fueled by intense heat), occurred in just 63 seconds. Always remove your tree immediately after Christmas. Remember, escape from a fire involves a clear exit path. Do not block an exit with a Christmas tree.

Christmas Light Safety (Indoor and Outdoor.

The safety guidelines are primarily aimed at both fire prevention and electrocution prevention.

Christmas Tree Lights Dec 2022 GVFD 4
Christmas Tree Lights Dec 2022 GVFD 3
  • Light bulbs: Inspect each bulb on a string of bulbs. Look for fraying wire and/or pinched Damaged bulbs represent risk factors for fire and shocks. Damaged glass from bulbs can cause severe cuts. If bulbs are missing replace them. If bulbs are broken, replace them.
  • Safety guidelines recommend no more than 3 strings of lights strung
  • The outdoor environment is fraught with electrical hazards. Water such as puddles, moist ground and snow and ice conducts electricity and can cause shock. Thus, outdoor lights are weatherproof, whereas indoor lights are Cords should be labeled clearly as outdoor/indoor and as with many electrical products have an approved laboratory seal such as Underwriter’s seal or any equivalent accredited laboratory. This seal attests to meeting the standards of the American National Standard Laboratory.
  • Avoid putting the cord directly on the ground which carries the same electrical shock risk. Stringing lights up is a good way to keep them off the ground. Light stakes are available if you wish to light a path on the ground. Do not put light plugs directly on the ground. Cord protectors should be used.
  • Cords should not be located through doors and windows, as this can damage the insulation and cause a shock. Note: Christmas lights are seasonal and not intended for long term use. Packing information or box labeling should indicate how long it is safe to leave lights
  • Metal ladders will conduct electricity. Do not use a metal ladder when putting up lights. Wooden or fiberglass ladders are recommended. Use ladders that allow you to easily reach the area you are working in, to avoid a fall.

A reminder for any holiday gathering: Make sure your smoke alarms and batteries are functioning, and your escape plans for adults, children and pets are in place.

 Wishing you a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.