Holiday Fire Safety Tips

From the Big Picture Blog

Fire from a fireplace consumes a staged room during a holiday safety live fire demonstration on December 9, 2010 in Menlo Park, California. The Menlo Park fire department held their annual holiday safety demonstration to promote fire safety during the holidays. Demonstrations using live fire showed how quickly fires can consume a home when a dry Christmas tree comes in contact with fire or candles are left unattended. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)”

Home fires are the most common disaster we respond to here at the Oregon Red Cross, and the frequency picks up noticeably around the holidays. I don’t have the recent stats on hand, but I do know the folks working our fire desk here at the Portland office have been especially busy these past few weeks.

Nationally, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays claiming more than 500 lives, causing more than 2,200 injuries, and costing $554 million in property damage.


We want you to have a safe and happy holiday season. So here are a few simple holiday fire safety tips:

  • Place Christmas trees, candles, and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.
  • Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees. If you purchase a real tree, make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren’t easily broken. Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water.
  • Make sure that light strings and other holiday decorations are in good condition. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Use only sturdy tree stands designed not to tip over. Keep curious pets and children away from Christmas trees.
  • Keep anything that can catch on fire—pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from your stove top.
  • Designate one person to walk around your home to make sure that all candles and smoking materials are properly extinguished after guests leave.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.


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