Safety reminders about Christmas trees and holiday lights

Posted at 4:38 PM, Dec 14, 2020

GREAT FALLS — The dim glow of a scented candle illuminating holiday cards is a sight that can be found in many homes during the holidays - but can quickly lead to one much less festive.

"We see a couple candle fires every year,” said Great Falls Fire Marshal Mike McIntosh. Candles are one of several holiday traditions Great Falls Fire Rescue reminds people to think about.

"Make sure that if you're using a candle you don't put it near anything that could ignite and (catch) on fire. The other thing we would also recommend is, any time that you leave the room or that you go to bed at night that you make sure that you extinguish that candle,” McIntosh said.

Next up, holiday lights. "Make sure that your Christmas lights are not damaged, frayed or look like they've been cut in any way. If they are, make sure you throw those away and go out and buy some new ones,” McIntosh said. "Also, regarding Christmas lights, we want people to know that there are some lights that are designed for indoor use and outdoor use and some that are only designed for either or. So make sure you know which type of use of lights that you have."

GFFR also recommends using a surge protector and plugging it directly into a wall. Plugging several surge protectors together is just asking for trouble.

If you've got a live Christmas tree in your house, don't let it dry out and become a tinderbox. "Make sure that you water it every day and that you out fresh water in the base,” McIntosh explained.

Good advice to keep your holiday spirit up and keep your holiday from going up in flames.

Get more holiday safety tips at the National Fire Protection Association website, including this overview:

Winter holiday fire facts

  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of home Christmas tree fires.
  • More than two of every five (42%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room. Five percent were chimney or flue fires. One-fifth (21%) of the decoration fires started in the kitchen. Sixteen percent started in the living room, family room or den.
  • Half (51%) of December home decoration fires were started by candles, compared to one-third (32%) in January to November.
  • See more statistics on winter holiday fires.

Christmas tree & decoration fires

  • Carefully decorating your home can help make your holidays safer. Between 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year.
  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 770 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees.