Avoiding Fire Hazards When Decorating for the Holidays
Some of us channel a little Clark Griswold when it comes to decorating for the holidays—lights strung up everywhere, a fresh Christmas tree with ornaments galore, and enough garland and holiday decor to make Santa’s elves jealous. Whether you go all out or keep your decorating to a minimum, there are certain fire hazards associated with decorations all residents should avoid.
Although Christmas tree fires aren’t common, they are very dangerous and life-threatening. Dry Christmas trees burn extremely fast with a tremendous amount of heat. Electrical malfunctions and having a heat source too close to a Christmas tree are the cause of over half of reported Christmas tree fires.
How to prevent a Christmas tree fire
- Add water daily to the base of your tree to ensure it doesn’t dry out and become a fire hazard.
- Ensure all heat sources, such as heat vents, candles, space heaters and fireplaces, are at least three feet away from your tree.
- Replace any string of lights or decorations with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
- Make sure your lights are third-party tested for safety, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using them.
- Remember to turn off your Christmas tree lights (and any other powered decorations) before leaving your home or going to bed. Automatic timers are great for this!
- When Christmas is over, get rid of your tree before it dries out. Check with your city for information on their tree recycling program after the holidays.
Avoid electrical and other decoration-related fires
- Make sure all extension cords and electrical decorations are marked for proper use and in good condition.
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns. Better yet, opt for battery-powered candles instead of traditional candles.
- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) can prevent 50% of home electrical fires.
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets. The circuit can overheat and cause a fire.
- Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
- Opt for LED lights instead of incandescent lights. They are more durable, energy efficient and are cool to the touch.
- Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
Sources: National Fire Protection Association and Electrical Safety Foundation International