Christmas Fire Threats and Holiday Safety Tips

House fire

In the blink of a lazy eye, the Christmas carols stopped, the Christmas lights went dark and nobody was dreaming of a White Christmas anymore. It was as if Ebenezer Scrooge was suddenly hosting Christmas. Even the Grinch thought this was a rotten turn for the most festive time of the year.

Nothing destroys the holiday spirit and family celebrations like a winter home holiday fire, which can break out in an instant. From Anchorage to Cedar Rapids to Miami, an ill-timed Christmas fire will be wrecking the holidays for unsuspecting American families this season.

“In a matter of seconds, a whole room can be consumed by a flaming Christmas tree,” Joe Galbo, social media specialist for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), told CNN.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees between 2015 and 2019. These fires are Merriam Webster’s definition of Holiday Bah Humbug. The CPSC notes 100 Christmas tree fires alone break out annually across the U.S., causing a terrible average toll of 20 deaths, 160 injuries and $50 million in property damage.

Home Fire Threats of Christmas

As we celebrate the most joyful time of the year, we must be aware and alert of the fire threats that can instantly make the music stop, the egg nog spoil, the Christmas cookies turn stale, and most disheartedly, send presents up in smoke. We present the Home Fire Threats of Christmas.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, How Dangerous Are Your Dry Branches: The most likely suspect of home holiday fires, Christmas trees can engulf in flames in less than 10 seconds due to dry branches and exposure to heat sources like fireplaces and radiators located far too close to the tree.

Keep your live Christmas tree (which is three times more likely to be involved in a Christmas fire compared to an artificial tree) watered and away from hazardous light sources.

“Technically, a Christmas tree is always a fire hazard, but it can become more of one once the needles start to dry out,” insurance analyst Lucy Murphy, CISR, notes. “Experts recommend keeping live trees for no more than four weeks, and continuing to water them during that timeframe.”

Humbug Lights: A statistic only “Die Hard” villain Hans Gruber could love, electrical distribution of lighting equipment is linked to almost half of home Christmas tree fires. The NFPA reports nearly one in five U.S. Christmas tree fires are started by decorative lights. More than one-third of home decoration fires and 45 percent of December decoration fires are started by candles. Sadly, Christmas day candle fires occur 2.5 times the daily average. Safety experts recommend using LED lights for trees and turning off the lights before going to bed or if no one will be home.

Dangerous Christmas Candles: Sure, they are beautiful, but placing a live candle precariously close to a live or artificial Christmas tree is a recipe for your family’s Christmas turning into a Griswald Family Christmas Vacation.
An Over-Stuffed Living Room: We know this is Grand Central Station for your family’s holiday celebrations, but stuffing too many items, especially live flames, too close together is a formula for fiery Christmas disaster.

Deadly Decorations: Nothing wrecks the beauty of Christmas decorations like watching them go up in smoke. The NFPA notes U.S. fire departments respond to an estimated average of 790 home structure fires each year that begin with decorations. These tragic fires cause an average of one civilian fire death, 26 civilian fire injuries and $13 million in direct property damage.

Bad Holiday Cooking: Another reason to keep a close eye on the holiday stove: Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the Nos. 2 and 3 days respectively behind Thanksgiving for home cooking fires. Cooking equipment is involved in nearly one in five (19%) of home decoration fires. When decorations are left on or too close to a stove or other cooking equipment, danger brews.

“Never leave food unattended on the stove or in the oven,” CPSC communications specialist Nychelle Fleming cautions.

Home Holiday Safety Tips

Christmas is the perfect time to go over your family’s fire safety plan and precautions.

  • Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly
  • Create a home escape plan; share it and practice it with your family and guests
  • Leave at least 1 foot of free space around outdoor burning sites and never leave them unattended
  • Keep space heaters away from anything that can catch on fire or burn

Remember, “Home Fire Christmas” is the worst holiday song ever and one you never want to hear playing in your house. For your family’s holiday celebration can go from great to grim in the bat of an unattended eye. Make sure a holiday home fire isn’t on your family’s Christmas menu this season by knowing the threats and knowing how to mute them.

“Taking precautions against house fires begins as soon as picking which Christmas tree to buy,” USA Today’s Jordan Mendoza notes.

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