• Winter Holiday Safety

  • 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. 

    Source: NFPA's "Home Structure Fires Involving Decorations" report

    • 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.

    Source: NFPA's "Home Structure Fires Involving Decorations" report

    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.

    Source: NFPA's "Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment" report

    • 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 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 source, 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.

    Source: NFPA's "Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees" report



  • A live Christmas tree burn conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows just how quickly a dried out Christmas tree fire burns, with flashover occurring in less than one minute, as compared to a well-watered tree, which burns at a much slower rate.

     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 manufacturer's instructions for 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.

    Source: NFPA's "Christmas tree and decoration fires"