- State Fire Marshal Offers Winter Holiday Safety Tips
- Winter Holiday Pamphlet - English a tri-fold public education pamphlet on safety from fires and burns during the winter holiday season
- Winter Holiday Safety Pamphlet - Spanish a tri-fold public education pamphlet on safety from fires and burns during the winter holiday season
- Twas the Night for Fire Safety - Fire Safety Poem fire safety poem written in the shape of a tree
- Make sure you smoke alarms are working! pamphlet on smoke alarm safety
- Carbon Monoxide FireFactors - pamphlet on carbon monoxide safety
- Candle Fire Safety - More candle fires occur on December 24 and 25 than any other day in Massachusetts. December 10 is Candle Safety Day.
- Cooking Fire Safety - DFS cooking fire safety webpage. Cooking is the leading cause of fires during the holiday season.
- USFA Focus on Holiday Safety - Holiday safety from the U.S. Fire Administration - Includes the NIST video on a burning holiday tree.
- NFPA Winter Holiday Safety handout - on Holiday safety.
- Make Safety a Tradition - holiday safety awareness campaign from the Electrical Safety Foundation International, providing free holiday safety resources, including safety tips and public service announcements and more.
- Holiday Safety Audio clips in English and Spanish - Free for use by local radio and television stations.
Winter Holiday Safety
A fire can ruin what should be a happy time for people to celebrate the winter holidays. It’s important to have working smoke and CO alarms along with a home escape plan every family member and guest knows. The leading cause of fires during the holiday is cooking so remember to Stand By Your Pan and to Put A Lid On a stovetop fire. Candles are important to many of our winter holidays. Use candles inside a one-foot circle of safety and remember to blow them out when you go out of the room or go to bed. The same is true for electric holiday decorations. When you go to bed or out, be sure to turn off the decorations, especially the Christmas tree.
Cooking Caused Two-Thirds Holiday Season Fires
- Stand by your pan. Don’t leave boiling, frying or broiling food unattended.
- Put a lid on a grease fire to smother it, and then turn off the heat.
- Never move a burning pan. You can be badly burned or spread the fire.
- Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on a grease fire. Water will only spread the fire and the force of the extinguisher can splash flaming grease out of the pan.
- Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking. Loose fitting clothing can easily catch fire.
Christmas Tree Fires Infrequent But Dangerous
Since people stopped putting lit candles on Christmas trees and standards were set for electric lights, the number of Christmas tree fires has been significantly reduced. However, the Christmas fires that do occur tend to be extremely dangerous. It is especially important to remove your holiday tree promptly; a dried out tree can easily ignite and will spread a fire quickly. The U.S. Fire Administration has a dramatic video from the National Institute of Standards and Technology on how fast a dry tree burns in comparison to a well-watered tree.
On December 11, 2011, a Christmas tree placed only two feet away from the lit fireplace caught fire causing $90,000 worth of damage to the Shutesbury home. One person was injured and three cats were killed.
Selecting a Tree
- Buy a cut tree as fresh as possible. A newly cut tree, properly cared for, can stay green and fire safe for several weeks.
- Tap the butt on the ground and grab a branch near the top and pull your hand along it slowly. Needles should not fall off. If you bend a needle and it breaks before bending in half, it’s too dry!
- If you go with an artificial tree, select one with a flame retardant label.
Caring for the Tree
- Make a fresh cut an inch or two off the bottom before placing it in the stand. This will help with absorption.
- Water a live tree every day.
Placing the Tree - Don't Block Exits
- Place your tree in a non-tip style stand with wide feet, using extra wires if needed to keep it steady.
- Keep doorways and exits clear.
- Place your tree and other decorations away from heaters, fireplaces, candles and all other sources of heat.
- Never use a cut tree in a place of public assembly (such as an office, apartment or hotel lobby, restaurant, etc.)
Decorating the Tree
- Purchase electric holiday lights that are listed by an approved testing agency (such as Underwriter’s Laboratory or Factory Mutual) and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- Consider using new LED lights that are cooler and use less electricity.
- Make sure the bulbs themselves are not touching the tree, curtains, wrapped gifts, and tree skirts.
- Never use lighted candles as decorations.
- Turn off the lights when leaving the house or going to bed for the night.
- Avoid overloading extension cords, a common cause of fires, by using no more than three strands of lights on a single extension cord.
- Remember never to put cords under rugs or behind furniture that can "pinch" them and cause fires.
Disposing of the Tree
- When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service. Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- Be sure to use only lights rated for outdoor use.
- Securely anchor outdoor lights and decorations against the wind and storms with insulated holders or hooks.
- Do not drive nails, staples or tacks through wiring insulation; this can cause a fire.
- All outdoor electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.
- Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life. Consider replacing old outdoor lights with newer LED lights that are ‘greener’ and cooler” and use less electricity.
- Burn candles in the center of a 1-foot Circle of Safety, free of anything that can burn.
- Stay in the same room with burning candles; never leave candles burning unattended.
- Burn candles on a non-combustible saucer, or candleholder.
- Be sure to extinguish candles before falling asleep, going out, or leaving the room.
- Teach everyone in the family the rules of safe candle use.
- Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or the Office of the State Fire Marshal at 1-877-9 NO FIRE or on-line at www.state.ma.us/dfs and look for Fire Safety Topics.