Holiday decorations are a fun part of the season, but these same decorations may increase the chance of a house fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
To avoid becoming a statistic this season, be certain to inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
Remember that trees are dormant in the winter and live on much less moisture. Even if snow is on the ground, holiday lights on trees beyond the home can provide an ignition source.
Sadly, indoor Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters, or matches start tree fires.
When selecting a tree, needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
The best safety precaution, keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. Do not place your tree close to a heat source, particularly a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.