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160 home fires start with Christmas trees in the U.S. each year – State Fire Marshal urges safety

Every year, top three days for candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve

Information provided by the Illinois State Fire Marshal

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (December 22, 2022) – Tis the season for decking the halls to celebrate the holiday season.

Holiday home fire statistics

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than two of every five home decoration fires occur due to decorations being placed too close to a heat source. More than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles.

The NFPA also reports U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year between 2016-2020, and an estimated average of 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees.

More than half of home decoration fires in December are started by candles. Candle fires peak in December, followed closely by January. The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve. Before you head to bed or out for the evening, extinguish all lit candles.

Fire safety tips

“Decorations add joy and extra flair to our homes during the holiday season, but they can also increase our risk for an accidental fire,” said Acting Illinois State Fire Marshal Dale Simpson. “Following a few simple fire safety tips can help to reduce that risk and allow you and your family to enjoy the holiday season.”

Unfortunately, last year 16 lives were lost in fire related incidents during the holiday season in Illinois. As of December 9th, there has already been a fire-related death in the state.

Below are some tips to keep in mind to stay fire-safe when decking the halls this holiday season:

  • Be careful with holiday decorations. Make sure decorations are either flame retardant or flame resistant.
  • Keep lit candles at least 12 inches away from decorations or anything that can catch fire.
  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
  • Extinguish all lit candles before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Check to make sure your lights are rated for indoor or outdoor use, or both.
  • Replace any light strands that have worn or broken cords. Make sure to read the recommendation for number of light strings you can string together.
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
  • If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure to check water levels daily. It is not unusual for a tree to drink two gallons of water the first day it is in the stand.
  • Keep real Christmas trees away from a heat source. It can dry out the tree quickly.

After a busy cooking day on Thanksgiving, before firing the oven back up preparing the next holiday meal, make sure to clean it. In case of an oven fire, turn off the oven and keep the door closed until it is cool. Clean cook tops as left-over grease can catch fire. Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, but Christmas and Christmas Eve follow closely behind.

If you are planning to host family and friends during the holidays, make sure they are aware of your fire escape plan. Show them where all the exits are in your home and make sure they are aware of a meeting spot location in case of fire.

In case of emergency, call 911.

Illinois State Fire Marshal (ISFM)
Illinois State Fire Marshal (ISFM)
The State Fire Marshal's Office distributes information intended to protect life and property from fire and explosions. In the interest of community safety, The Lansing Journal shares this information with our readers.