Fire Safety Tips for Decorating During the Holidays


As we prepare for the holiday season over the next couple months, adorning bright and colorful decorations is a great way to get into the spirit of the season. However, not taking the right precautions when decorating could result in needless harm to you, your family, or your property. Here are a few tips to ensure that your holiday decorations are as safe as they are beautiful.


General Fire Safety

Common tasks for fire safety can easily be overlooked or put off, so take this opportunity as a reminder to make sure your devices are in working condition. Before you start any decorating, the first thing you should do is check your smoke alarms and replace the batteries if needed. It is equally as important to confirm that you have a working fire extinguisher on hand. Most fire extinguishers are good for around 10-15 years, but it is recommended to replace them at least every 12 years to ensure you have a safe and effective product. Moreover, inspect your extinguisher’s pressure gauge every month or so, as the devices require pressure to effectively put out fires. If there is something askew with your extinguisher’s pressure level, contact the manufacturer of your device.


Christmas Trees

Despite the cozy and festive appearance of this decorative centerpiece of the holiday season, a Christmas tree can present quite the fire hazard if not properly taken care of. On average, over a hundred Christmas tree-related fires occur every year in the United States, most of which could have been avoided if the proper precautions were taken. Whether using a live or artificial tree, there are several things to consider doing to reduce your risk of fires. If you plan on using a live Christmas tree during the holidays, make sure you keep it watered to prevent the tree from drying out. Around a gallon of water is the recommended daily amount for a six-foot tree. To get the most water absorption, make sure you cut around a half inch off the base of your tree before you place it in the tree stand. There are automatic watering systems that can be purchased to help keep your tree fresh without the active effort of watering it daily. If you decide to use an artificial tree, check to see if the tree you are purchasing is flame-resistant. Regardless of the kind of tree you are using, you will want to place it away from any heat source.



Whether they are an essential part of your holiday celebration or you just like the warm ambiance they bring, candles can be a great touch to have out during the holidays. However, candles must be used responsibly to avoid any accidents. For starters, make sure you do not place your candles closer than a foot from anything that poses a fire risk (e.g., Christmas trees, wreaths, wrapped gifts). Keeping candles away from ledges where they can be knocked down by children or pets is another great way to avoid accidents. Never leave candles lit unattended; always put them out before you go to bed or before you leave your home. Inspect the length of your wicks before you burn your candles, as long wicks can send hot soot onto potentially flammable surfaces. Ideally, a candlewick should be no longer than a quarter-inch long. That said, you will want to make sure you do not cut the wick too short, as that can cause the candle to not burn effectively. Having candles in a drafty part of your home, such as near a fan, can increase the chances of the flames escaping the confines of the candle.


Hanging Lights

When hanging lights in your home, always make sure to employ lights meant for indoor usage. Lights designed for outdoor usage are usually hotter than indoor string lights. That additional heat can pose a fire hazard when used indoors. Similarly, indoor lights can be equally dangerous when used outside. Indoor lights are not meant to withstand excessive weather, meaning the plastic coating on the lights will break down much faster when left outside. As the lights break down, wire can be exposed, increasing the chance of the lights catching fire. Always ensure that the lights you are hanging up are designed for the space you are placing them in. The boxes the lights come in should be labeled for indoor use, outdoor use, or both. Additionally, consider using LED string lights when decorating for the holidays, as the bulbs are much cooler compared to incandescent lights, lowering the risk for fire. Keep your lights unplugged when you are hanging them, as accidently piercing a live wire with a nail or staple can be dangerous.


How you are plugging your lights in is as important as what kind of lights you are using. Common electrical issues many people experience stem from outlets. Do not overload an outlet with too many cords plugged into it, as this can cause shortages and fires. The number of light strands you can use varies depending on your lights’ wattage. Most boxes of lights will state how many strands of lights you can connect end-to-end, but it is easy enough to calculate on your own as well. Every home is different, but 210 watts is the general maximum amount of power you can have connected to one circuit. (LED string lights are a great choice if you want to set up a large number of lights, as they tend to use fewer watts than their incandescent counterparts.) Carefully place your hand over the outlet to make sure it is not hot or overheating. Remember to keep outlets dry to prevent electrocution or shortages. Be aware of any sounds coming from outlets. If the outlet is humming, buzzing, or making any other sound, carefully unplug anything in the outlet and call a professional electrician to address the situation.


Surge protectors and extension cords should also be used when setting up decorative holiday lights. Replace any worn out or damaged electrical cords. Do not run any electrical cords under rugs, carpet, or furniture, as they can become damaged or may overheat and cause fires. When you are not using extension cords, store them properly in a safe place away from moisture. You may use a spiral wrap or tubing, which encloses the cords in a protective casing, to prevent any damage to the cords or wires. Pay attention to whether your surge protectors and extension cords are suitable for outdoor usage. The tags on extension cords and surge protectors should indicate what kind of environment they are built for. If you are using these products outdoors, avoid setting them where rainwater may pool, as the moisture can damage the integrity of your wires.


It does not matter whether you are keeping it simple or if you are going all out. Practicing safe fire preventive measures when decorating during the holidays is crucial for keeping you and your family safe. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Brightening up your home with a variety of decorations is one of the best parts of the holiday season; just make sure you are doing it safely and responsibly.


Andy Baker and Maxwell White
Home & Yard Magazine