Holiday Fire Safety

Include Fire Safety on Your Holiday Wish List

American Red Cross Offers Safety Tips to Prevent Holiday Home Fires

Your holiday decorations need proper care so your Christmas doesn't go up in flames.

Your holiday decorations need proper care so your Christmas doesn’t go up in flames.

EASTERN, NC, December 3, 2012 — As the holiday season moves into full swing, the Eastern NC Region of the American Red Cross urges families to follow simple safety tips to keep the season merry and to prevent holiday fires. During the winter holiday season, the incidence and severity of home fires dramatically increases. In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year nearly 156,000 fires occur nationally during the holidays claiming more than 630 lives, causing more than 2,600 injuries, and costing $936 million in property damage. Many of these fires are caused by home heating sources, unattended cooking, and candles.

In the last year, the Eastern NC Region has responded to 513 fires in our community and assisted 1,784 residents with immediate emergency needs such as shelter, food and clothing.  Since November, the Red Cross has begun to notice the seasonal increase in home fires caused by things such as  improper heating or cooking.

To prevent holiday home fires, the Red Cross recommends keeping all potential fuel sources, including decorations and evergreen trees and wreaths, at least three feet from heat sources such as candles, heat vents, fireplaces and radiators. In addition, holiday lights and candles need to be turned off or extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed, and especially before leaving home. If you are entertaining guests, designate a responsible family member to walk around your home to ensure that candles are properly extinguished once guests leave.

At a minimum, smoke alarms need to be installed outside of each sleeping area and on each level of your home. Use the test button to test each smoke alarm once a month, and replace all smoke alarm batteries once a year. Fire escape plans should include at least two escape routes for every room in the home. Also chose a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from your home. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year with all family members.

The Red Cross recommends following the below tips to help prevent holiday home fires:

Holiday Tree Care

  • 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.
  • Use a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  • Keep trees at least three feet away from heat sources, including fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.
  • Make sure that any light strings or other decorations for the tree are in good condition and follow manufacturer’s instructions for their use. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords.
  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
  • Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
  • Safely dispose of trees as they become dry and needles begin to drop.
  • Dispose of trees through recycling centers or community pick-up services. Dried-out trees should not be left at home or in a garage, or placed against the home or garage.

Holiday Lights and Decorations

  • Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets by not linking more than three light strands.
  • Use decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant.
  • Place decorations at least three feet away from fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.

Holiday Candles

  • Remember that lit candles are fire. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from trees, evergreens, holiday decorations, and other items that can catch on fire like clothing, papers and curtains.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Place candles only where they cannot be reached or easily knocked over by children and pets.
  • Consider using battery-operated “flameless” candles that are scented and have a flickering affect.

The Red Cross depends on the generous support of local residents to respond to our neighbors who are affected by home fires. You can help the Red Cross continue to be ready to respond and help fire victims by becoming a volunteer or making a financial contribution. To become a volunteer and to make a donation, visit  For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information visit


About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at


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