It’s that time of year when family traditions of decking the halls and the adding the perfect decorations to the Christmas trees can bring joy to the entire family. There is a sense of magic when the lights glow and the evergreen aroma fills the air. Add fresh baked cookies and you have the ingredients for a wonderful holiday.

Celebrating with either a live or artificial tree this year will no doubt make your home more festive but added care should be taken to ensure that your risk of loss is not increased by these holiday traditions.

Fire kills over 3,000 and injures 16,000 people each year. Firefighters pay a high price for this terrible fire record as well; about 100 firefighters die on duty each year. Direct property losses due to fire reach over $11 billion a year. Most of these deaths and losses can be prevented.1

Many people are aware and take precautions to make sure live trees are not a fire hazard by frequently watering trees (twice a day). According to the National Fire Protection Association, “NFPA”2 the number of home fires linked to Christmas trees or the decorative lights caused by an electrical problem is low, but the scope of damage and the death rate for these types of fire losses is high.

NFPA’s published stats:

  • Between 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage annually.
  • On average, one of every 40 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires. 
  •  Electrical problems were factors in one-third (32%) of home Christmas tree structure fires.
  • Two of every five (39%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
  • Four of every five Christmas tree fires occurred in December and January. Of the 10 days with the largest shares of Christmas tree fires, none were before Christmas.
  • Twelve percent of home Christmas tree fires involved decorative lights. Candles started 7% of home Christmas tree structure fires.

In addition, U.S Fire Administration reminds homeowners it is not only trees that cause holiday fires; the data shows that 2 out of 5 home decoration fires are caused by candles. USFA advises to keep all candles 12 inches away from any heat source.

For holiday ornaments, save the precious handmade keepsakes but don’t use the antique lights or light up angels or stars “tree toppers” because the electrical shortage risk is much higher. The USFA recommends that you only connect 3 strands of mini lights and no more than 50 bulbs for screw in lights.

Take heed to these safety warnings this holiday season. Remember to frequently water your live trees and turn off lights and electronic decorations, and blow out all candles when leaving the house or just taking a rest.

1 (The USFA is an entity of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, the mission of the U.S. Fire Administration is to provide national leadership to foster a solid foundation for our fire and emergency services stakeholders in prevention, preparedness and response.)
2 The mission of the international nonprofit NFPA is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.