Ho-ho-hold up on that holiday decorating—put safety first

Every year, fire departments respond to an average of 240 structure fires caused by Christmas trees and another 150 fires at homes that involve holiday lighting. Decorating Christmas trees can make your holidays more merry; however, these same decorations may increase your chances of a fire occurring.

Christmas trees are beautiful, but can be harmful if safety precautions aren't heeded. Photo credit: Catherine R. Williams
Christmas trees are beautiful, but can be harmful if safety precautions aren't heeded. Photo credit: Catherine R. Williams
By following a few easy fire safety tips, you can prevent this calamity from happening to you. First, learn how to prevent a fire and what to do if one starts in your home. Additionally, make sure all exits are accessible and clear and not blocked by trees or decorations.

Purchasing the tree

1. If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.

2. When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Placing the tree

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It takes a (Christmas?) village to keep the holidays safe for family and friends. Photo credit: Catherine R. Williams
1. Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk.

2. Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

3. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.4. Be sure to add water to the tree stand daily.

Lighting the tree

1. Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.

2. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect.

3. Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

4. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

For more safety tips, check out this website below. And remember, the best holiday is a safe holiday with your family and friends.


Jesse Miller
Johnson Space Center, Houston


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Updated: 11/29/2012