Fire Safety During the Holidays

November 16, 2023


Timothy J. Thomas Sr., OFE OFC

6048 Morris Road

Hamilton, Ohio  45011

Phone 513-887-4402 – FAX 513-887-2705


With several holidays quickly approaching, safety is of major concern to all Fire Departments and Fire Chiefs.  In this article the Fire Chief will focus on Christmas and several items that many will forget to consider. One of the most common being the use of at least one, if not several, decorated Christmas trees in various parts of the house.  They are a part of traditional holiday festivity and beautiful.  However, their fire threat is enormous.  Once ignited, a Christmas tree can engulf a room in flames very quickly, spreading onto gifts, furniture, walls, the ceiling and other rooms.  Every year families are burned out of their homes because of a fire caused by a Christmas tree.


There is no such thing as a "fresh" Christmas tree.  Christmas trees are usually cut months before the holiday and held in cool storage.  By the time a Christmas tree makes it to market, it is already beginning to dry out.  When you select a tree, look for one which is not shedding needles.  Sap collects at the base of the tree when it is storage.  When you get home, cut about 2" off the base of the tree.  A diagonal cut is best and will expose more surface area of the base to water when the tree stand is filled.  However, this may be impractical for many tree stands which require a straight cut across the bottom.  The tree is still alive and can be kept from further drying by daily watering.  Using water is fine, but lemon lime soda is a surprisingly excellent addition to the water to help hydrate Christmas trees.  According to experts, it contains water, sugar and preservatives which help the tree stay alive longer.  The acidity also prevents the build-up of bacteria at the base.  Commercially made products are also available for Christmas trees and can be purchased on Amazon or at many local stores.


REMEBER TO CHECK ALL LIGHTS AND WIRING! Be careful not to use Christmas lights with frayed or cracked wiring.  Often, these are stored in a superheated attic or garage all summer long.  Lights and cords should be inspected and tested before placing them on a tree or house.  Purchase only UL-approved Christmas lights or electrical devices.  Avoid the use of Christmas lights if icicle decoration pieces or an aluminum tree is used. Also, remember not to overload electrical circuits with long strings of lights.  This overheats wires and poses a significant fire danger.  If the plug is warm to touch, the circuit might be overloaded.  Make sure cords are rated for exterior use if being used outside. Always follow the manufacturer instructions.  Finally, remember to turn off the lights before going to bed at night.


There are many other things one can do to minimize the threat of fire during the Christmas season.  Avoid placing the Christmas tree near heat sources, such as heater vents, the fireplace, or the space heater.  Check your smoke detector. Don't use candles or flammable decorations on the tree.  Place away from windows, bedding, or fire escape routes, like doors.  When using candles remember to place them on a secure candleholder with a sturdy base that has a place for wax to drop or on a proper surface.  Keep candles out of the reach of children and extinguish them whenever you go to bed or leave the house.  A dry Christmas tree can ignite and engulf a living room within 30 seconds! 


By being safe and using these simple tips, a nicer holiday can be enjoyed by all!