3 ways to keep your holidays from going up in flames

By Christina Seidel, CSFD Public Education Officer

Copyright: bilderundvektor / 123RF Stock PhotoThe holiday season represents a time for family fun and good cheer, but Christmas trees, cooking, candles and decorations – not to mention the hectic pace of the season – can greatly increase the risk of home fires.

Fortunately, with a little awareness and some minor adjustments to your cooking and decorating habits, the season can remain festive and safe. The National Fire Protection Association and the College Station Fire Department offer these tips:

  1. Pay attention when cooking.

With unattended cooking being the leading cause of home fires and injuries, we recommend staying in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stovetop and turn off it off if you leave the kitchen even for a moment. If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

We also suggest creating a kid-free zone of at least three feet around the stove and other areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

  1. Candles can be hazardous.

It’s no coincidence that December is the peak month for home fires caused by candles, and we encourage you to consider using flameless candles, which look like real candles and provide a similarly festive aroma.

However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Candle holders should be sturdy and placed on uncluttered surfaces. Candles should not be used in bedrooms or other areas where people may fall asleep.

Lastly, never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.

  1. Decorate Christmas trees with care.

An average of 230 home structure fires are caused by Christmas trees each year in the United States, many from electrical problems or being placed too close to a heat source. Here are some tips for picking, placing and lighting your tree:

  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
  • If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched. Before placing it in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand and be sure to water it daily.
  • Make sure the tree isn’t blocking an exit and is at least three feet from any heat source such as fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles, and heat vents or lights.
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands that can be safety connected.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate your tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
  • After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in your home or garage, or placed outside the home.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic if a fire occurs. By taking simple precautions, you can avoid potential fire hazards and keep the holiday season healthy and happy.

For more information and safety tips, go to nfpa.org/holiday, or contact me at cseidel@cstx.gov.


About Christina Seidel
Christina is in her second year as public education officer for the College Station Fire Department. She was previously the executive director of the Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley and was a teacher in Lockhart. Christina is a 2001 graduate of the University of Texas.  

Photo Copyright: bilderundvektor / 123RF Stock Photo

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