According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 245 home fires start with Christmas trees every year. "If there is a fire, the Christmas tree often is the first thing to ignite, especially if the tree is dried out," says Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert. These fires result in injuries, deaths, and approximately $17 million in property damage.
TIP: When choosing a real tree, go for one that is green (no brown needles). If you're choosing an artificial tree, be sure to pick one that is fire-resistant (always read the label), and remember that trees with built-in electrical systems should also have the label of an independent test laboratory that is approved to perform safety testing, such as the Underwriters Laboratories.
TIP: try not to use trimmings that have small removable parts or that resemble food or candy. Some decorations might contain cadmium, lead, or other toxic materials that can be dangerous to young children, so keep all holiday decor out of reach.
Each year, more than 50,000 home fires are started by electrical problems, according to the NFPA. Remember, when it comes to hanging lights, always check the directions on the box. Follow the obvious: Only use indoor lights - indoors (and use only outdoor lights outdoors), and check that the lights have been tested and approved by an independent safety-testing laboratory.
TIP: Inspect lights for broken, cracked, or bare wires, or loose bulb connections, and immediately replace any broken light sets. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the number of LED strands to connect. Use no more than three light sets on one extension cord.
TIP: Put extension cords against the wall so that people and pets won't trip over them, but do not run cords under rugs. Be sure to turn off all the lights on trees and all decoration lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
Always keep a watchful eye on candles; keep them away from the decorations, tree, and other things that can burn easily. The U.S. Fire Administration states that candles are the cause of more than ten deaths, 180 injuries, and $20 million in property damage each holiday season.
TIP: Never leave burning candles unattended, and place them away from the reach of children, put them in stable holders, and always be sure to check that all candles are out before you go to bed. Consider using electric or battery-powered candles instead.
Holiday Flowers and Plants
Poinsettias: While it's unlikely that ingestion of poinsettias would cause death, it may cause some gastric irritation and burning in the mouth. However, some other beautiful holiday plants that decorate our homes are potentially poisonous. These include holly, mistletoe, Christmas rose, and Jerusalem cherry. For this reason, keep them safely out of reach of young children and pets, or avoid using them altogether.
TIP: Have a professional chimney sweep inspect and clean the fireplace and chimney annually as maintenance is crucial to prevent creosote buildups and potential fires.
TIP: Make sure that no decorations or papers are too close to the fireplace, and always make sure that the flue is open.
Food plays a significant part in holiday celebrations, so it's unsurprising that unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires in the United States, according to the NFPA.
TIP: Keep items that can catch fire (oven mitts, towels, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, etc.) away from your stovetop, including any long-sleeved shirt or your apron.
TIP: Use the back burners of your stove as much as possible so that no spills will fall directly on you or anyone close to you.
TIP: When it comes to keeping little ones protected from burns, keep them out of the kitchen while you're cooking or create a 3-foot kid-free zone around the stove.