Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
December 18, 2013

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17 Tips for a Fire-Safe Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but Christmas is also the season for additional fire hazards if simple, common-sense, precautions are not taken.

If you’ve not seen the damage a Christmas-tree fire can do before, watch this shocking video:

Make sure you have a disaster-free Christmas by checking out the tips below:

Do…

  1. Buy reputable Christmas tree lights with the British Safety Standard label. Turn them off and unplug them before you leave them unattended, go out, or go to bed. Make sure the bulbs are not touching anything and replace them when they blow.
  2. Check on the box that you are using the right type of fuse.
  3. Consider switching to LED lights, which are cooler and greener.
  4. Take care around open fires in case clothes catch on fire; avoid putting Christmas cards around the fireplace.
  5. If you have a real Christmas tree, buy it as fresh as possible — test by banging it on the ground. Cut a slice off the bottom and water it every day. Dispose of it within two weeks, or when it dries out. A tree fire can engulf a room in a matter of seconds.
  6. If you have an artificial tree, make sure it has a flame retardant label.
  7. Make sure the tree cannot topple over; use a non-tip base with wide feet.
  8. Plug all outdoor electrical decorations into a circuit breaker.
  9. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in working condition, and practise a fire evacuation plan.

Don’t…

  1. Plug tree lights into an overloaded socket.
  2. Use lighted candles as decorations.
  3. Place your tree too close to a drying heat source such as a heater, fireplace, or candles, or block doorways or exits with it.
  4. Use electric lights on metal artificial trees.
  5. Put candles near the Christmas tree or flammable materials.
  6. Leave candles unattended or near children.
  7. Put paper or card Christmas decorations on lights or heaters.
  8. Leave that turkey on its own in the kitchen.

Happy Christmas!

Further information:

2023 Fire Safety eBook – Grab your free copy!

Download the Fire Safety in 2023 eBook, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry. Chapters include important updates such as the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and an overview of the new British Standard for the digital management of fire safety information.

Plus, we explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.

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JonathanL
JonathanL
December 18, 2013 11:10 am

Thanks for the Tips Cherry, that video is terrifying.  Its amazing how easily something so innocent can destroy a home.  Hopefully everyone remembered to change the batteries in their smoke detectors at the time change but if they didnt then here is a good reminder.

safeNsane
safeNsane
December 19, 2013 7:40 am

  “A tree fire can engulf a room in a matter of seconds.” Many people don’t think about this.  They have done things like try to start a camp fire with wet wood or had trouble with getting a fire going in the fireplace so they assume a Christmas tree is going to take a long time to catch and that it will burn like that smokey campfire.  Dry pine trees go up like a torch and burn hot.  We have new years eve bonfires and use dried trees that we pick up from the neighborhood.  If you want a… Read more »

gbrown
gbrown
December 19, 2013 4:50 pm
Reply to  JonathanL

Thanks for this. It is a good piece of advice

JonathanL
JonathanL
December 20, 2013 8:08 am
Reply to  safeNsane

 They are a great source of fuel, there was a MIT project to create a efficent burning spiral stove for the people of India in an area where the trees there were protected from being cut down.  They collected the pine needles and pressed them into compressed blocks that were feed into this stove.  Pine needles burn with a rate and heat near gasoline so while a real tree is a beautiful thing it needs to be treated with the same respect.  If it is not properly cared for its a fire waiting to happen.

holmesd
holmesd
December 20, 2013 10:05 am
Reply to  JonathanL

There used to be a TV advert that aired around this time of year, which reminded everyone to check their smoke detector batteries, always thought that was a really good way to prompt people

Sheh
Sheh
December 20, 2013 10:48 am
Reply to  safeNsane

Really useful tips for this Christmas. Nomally we dont consider these issues seriously and dont even bother to do even some of the things which are mentioned by Cherry Park. The video really shocks me beacuse we never get ourselves more alert to these small safety measures. Safety should always comes first beacuse otherwise there is a possibility of real danger.

Sheh
Sheh
December 20, 2013 10:54 am
Reply to  holmesd

Smoke detecters should be checked regularly and specially the batteries should be checked regularly. We often dont give much attection to the batteries and if they are really old then in our mind our smoke detectors would be working fine but a great havoc could happen in our houses. There are Smoke alarms available in the market for the people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing or blind. I think they are a great thing. I think others could also have them just for one step more for the safety of the house.

safeNsane
safeNsane
December 20, 2013 12:11 pm
Reply to  JonathanL

 
That is a good bit of information.  I doubt very many people out there would wrap a can of gasoline in electric lights and leave it sitting in their living room but we don’t think twice about doing that with a pine tree every year.  Every year we go over our strings of lights and toss out anything that looks the least bit suspect because I’m not a fan of easily avoidable and accidents.

JonathanL
JonathanL
December 20, 2013 1:54 pm
Reply to  safeNsane

@Mike Clauss That is another good tip to add to the list, we regularly replace our strands of fights because its better to be safe than sorry.  Sure getting shocked by 110 isn’t so bad but they are a hazard.  I am sure there are a lot of people that get that mental image of the cat getting fried from National Lampoon’s Christmas but things happen between hanging and taking down, storage, tugging and pulling they arent made to take a lot of abuse and can fray very easily.  Thats like the electronic start on bbq grills now, you are… Read more »

ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
December 22, 2013 1:27 pm
Reply to  Sheh

I agree with you, Sheh. Most people just take checks and precautions like these for granted, always believe that it won’t happen or that accidents might happen–but just not to them. It’s time to get rid of this mindset and truly be conscientious of the things that you have to check regularly to ensure your safety, as well as that of your family.

ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
December 22, 2013 1:28 pm
Reply to  JonathanL

True, Jonathan. Some people just try to be “economical” about it, not realizing that what they are putting on the line is worth more than the few bucks that they might save from it.

ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
December 22, 2013 1:29 pm
Reply to  safeNsane

I like the analogy, SafeNSane. And it hits close to home. I had some friends who were careless last holiday season and it almost resulted in their house getting burned down! That was an important (and very expensive) lesson to learn, as their living room bore the brunt of the damage. Thankfully, no one was harmed.

ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
December 22, 2013 1:30 pm
Reply to  holmesd

I’ve seen a similar advertisment from my end of the globe, and I do agree. These types of messages are really helpful to remind people that safety should still be a concern, especially in the holidays.

SunitaT
SunitaT
December 23, 2013 12:36 am

We can’t be more careful on big occasions like Christmas. The bigger the occasion the bigger the damage that could ensue in case the fire erupts.We must take these tips as reminder while gearing up for big Christmas celebrations. Safe celebrations are the biggest celebrations after all.

SunitaT
SunitaT
December 23, 2013 12:36 am

@ safeNsane, you have elaborated very well on one of the most important tips. You are absolutely right,our troublesome experience with lighting wet wood makes us complacent about Christmas. We often forget the difference between dry Christmas tree and slow burning wet wood used often in campfires. It’s time we attended to this important tip.

safeNsane
safeNsane
December 23, 2013 7:19 am
Reply to  JonathanL

That is a good point, all the pulling of wires when unpacking and untangling the big ball of lights that I see every year eventually leads to fatigue and damage.  Also a lot of these lights are rated for indoor and outdoor use so they trade off being used outdoors in harsh climates then can be used indoors the following year.

safeNsane
safeNsane
December 23, 2013 7:44 am
Reply to  SunitaT

Well to be fair it could be even worse.  I can’t remember the country but there is a tradition out there that makes a holiday animal out of dry straw.  At least the trees that so many people have start out wet and some people are good about keeping them watered.   I remember reading an article about how often these straw animals result in fires and how dangerous the article made the practice seem then I thought about the number of homes with dried out trees inside or open flames burning during the holiday season.  It seems like December… Read more »

JonathanL
JonathanL
December 23, 2013 8:37 am
Reply to  safeNsane

I am sure many families have some of those types of decorations.  Even here in the states my parents have decorations that are made of dried highly flammable materials and I would think that 11 months in a nice toasty attic would only make them that much easier to start a fire with.  I dont think I am going to look at christmas the same way again… lots of disturbing hazards here…

safeNsane
safeNsane
December 26, 2013 8:19 am
Reply to  JonathanL

It really is amazing the things we will do to make our homes more festive.  Last year we had a story about a college banning a religious organization from using their dorms during holiday seasons because the frequency of fires rose dramatically.  I can imagine that taking that closer look at your decorations will greatly reduce your chances of having the fire department vist your home unexpectedly. 

holmesd
holmesd
December 30, 2013 6:23 am
Reply to  safeNsane

I’m sure we have all been accussed of being miserable when we have tried to stop these kinds of decorations going up in our offices. I had to do a risk assessment in Denmark, who in addition to the tinsel etc, like to have lit candles around!!!

safeNsane
safeNsane
December 30, 2013 7:22 am
Reply to  holmesd

It does surprise me that we’ve managed to survive this long since we used to do things like light trees with candles and use oil lamps near dried out trees.  You still hear stories about fires due to faulty holiday decorations but it could very easily be much worse.

StaceyE
StaceyE
December 31, 2013 5:13 pm
Reply to  JonathanL

@ JohnathonL
I agree the video was certainly a startling reminder of how fast things can go really bad. Thanks for the smoke detector battery reminder….I need to do that!

StaceyE
StaceyE
December 31, 2013 5:15 pm
Reply to  holmesd


In some areas there are still public service notices prompting people to test their detectors. I know at certain times of the year something to that affect aires in my area.

StaceyE
StaceyE
December 31, 2013 5:17 pm
Reply to  safeNsane

@ safeNsane
We also go through our lights every year to rid ourselves of any that could even possibly cause problems. It’s a smart thing to do…period. We are also gradually replacing everything with LED.

StaceyE
StaceyE
December 31, 2013 5:18 pm
Reply to  ITs_Hazel

Very good point, too many people are stuck in the “it won’t happen to me mindset”.

batye
batye
January 2, 2014 1:21 am
Reply to  StaceyE

yes, as human nature is always hope for a best… trying to overlook future problems

batye
batye
January 2, 2014 1:22 am
Reply to  StaceyE

at my client side they doing the same as LED offer better safety and longer service/product lifespan…