Holiday Fire Prevention and Safety Tips

From Fire Chief Danny Bowman and the Forsyth County Fire Department
“The Forsyth County Fire Department encourages everyone to take precautionary measures to help ensure safety throughout the holiday season,” Forsyth County Fire Chief Danny Bowman said. “Responsible use of items such as lights and decorations can help prevent fires and injuries.”
Heating Devices

  • Keep portable electric heaters at least three feet away from combustible materials such as drapes and upholstered furniture
  • Never place heaters on tables or furniture
  • Avoid using extension cords for heaters if possible
  • Do not use unvented gas heaters in enclosed spaces due to the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendations regarding where and how to use any heating devices

Preventing Holiday Tree Fires

  • Selecting a tree for the holidays
    Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and poses a fire hazard.
  • Caring for your tree
    Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat can dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Disposing of your tree
    Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. Consider disposing of your tree by taking it to a recycling center.

Holiday Lights

  • Maintain your holiday lights
    Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before using them. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets
    Never link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe to link additional ones. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into an outlet. Periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
  • Do not leave holiday lights on unattended

Holiday Decorations

  • Use only nonflammable decorations
    All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If using an artificial or metallic tree, be sure it is flame retardant.
  • Do not block exits
    Be sure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block exits.
  • Never place wrapping paper in a fireplace
    Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.

Candle Care

  • Avoid using lit candles
    Consider using battery-operated flameless candles. If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be knocked over easily. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn and never leave burning candles unattended.
  • Never put lit candles on a tree
    Do not go near a holiday tree with an open flame (candles, lighters or matches).

Toy Safety

  • Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children.
  • Before purchasing a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
  • To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, do not give young children (under age ten) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, consider toys that are battery-operated.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
  • Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could pose a strangulation hazard for babies.

“Be sure to always have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed on every level of your home,” Bowman said. “Test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries.”
Residents are also reminded to maintain and practice a home escape plan and to dial 911 in an emergency.
These tips courtesy of the Forsyth County Fire Department and the United States Fire Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics.