Christmas Fire Safety

Are your Christmas decorations safe?

How to prevent a fire in your home at Christmas

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In the run up to Christmas, Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service want you to make sure you, your families and friends all celebrate safely during the festive period.  Please take into consideration the following safety tips when using Christmas decorations to avoid a preventable accident happening in your home.  

Christmas tree

  • Get a freshly cut tree. It will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard. Try to pick a tree with a strong green colour and noticeable fragrance.
  • Always test for freshness before buying. A tree with high moisture content is safer. Very few needles should fall when the butt of the tree is tapped on the ground; needles should bend, not break; and the stump should be sticky with resin.
  • Cut off about two inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly. Make sure it is always immersed in water: If water drops below the trunk, the stem may reseal itself, requiring a fresh cut. Use a tree stand that has widespread legs for better balance.
  • Do not set your tree up near a heat source such as a radiator, television, fireplace, heating duct or sunny window. It should not block doors or windows.
  • Never use lighted candles on the tree.
  • Preferably remove the tree within 10 to 14 days.  After that amount of time in a heated building, even the freshest tree can start to dry out.
  • If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labelled as fire resistant.

Decorations

  • Choose decorations that are flame-retardant, non-combustible and non-conductive.
  • If there are young children or pets in your home, avoid very small decorations.
  • Avoid using angel hair (glass wool) together with spray-on snowflakes. This combination is highly combustible.
  • Do not use metallic ornaments on the tree. If they make contact with defective wiring they could become a shock hazard.

Lights 

  • Use the proper lights for the environment. Indoor light strings/sets should not be used outdoors because they lack weatherproof connections. Some outdoor light strings/sets burn too hot indoors.
  • Inspect light strings/set before use. Check for cracked bulbs and for frayed, broken or exposed wires, and discard if faulty.
  • Do not use electric light strings/sets on metallic trees. A faulty system could energise the tree and shock or electrocute anyone coming into contact. Illuminate metallic trees with coloured floodlights placed at a safe distance from the tree and out of reach.
  • Turn off all tree and display lights before retiring for the night or before leaving the house.

Candles

  • Place candles away from absolutely anything that could catch fire.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended.
  • Burn them only when a responsible adult is overseeing the flame.
  • Put candles in sturdy holders on a stable surface, well away from drafts, curtains, children and pets.
  • Snuff them out before leaving the room or going to sleep.

More candle fire safety information.

The fireplace

  • Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat.
  • Don't hang Christmas stockings from the mantel when the fireplace is in use.
  • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
  • Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Use only seasoned and dried wood.
  • Never leave the fire unattended or let it smolder.
  • Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.
  • Don't use Christmas trees for firewood.

More information on preventing chimney fires.

Electrical outlets

  • There is often a tendency to overload wall outlets during the holiday season. This is an unsafe practice and should be avoided even for short durations.
  • Inspect all cords before using. Make sure they have the BEAB mark of safety - this means that it has been tested and approved by the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board. Look for loose connections or frayed or exposed wire. Discard any defective cords. Read the labels and manufacturer's instructions to ensure proper use.
  • Insert plugs fully into outlets. Poor contact may cause overheating or shock.
  • To avoid possible overheating, do not coil or bunch an extension cord which is in use and do not run it under carpets or rugs.

The kitchen

Grease and fat fires are a leading cause of home fires, so be extra careful when doing this kind of cooking.

Here's what to do if grease in a pot or pan catches fire:

  • Smother the flames by covering the pan with a lid.
  • Turn off the heat immediately.
  • Never turn on the overhead fan, as this could spread the fire.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire.

More kitchen fire safety information.

Gift suggestions

  • Home smoke alarm
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Multi-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher
  • Candle snuffer
  • Thermostatically controlled deep fryer

Last but not least ... make sure your smoke detectors work!