Fire Marshal offers safety tips

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Festive lights, windowsill candles and a decked-out Christmas trees are staples of the holidays, but these decorative items also pose a fire risk if handled improperly.

From 2005-2009, on average, one of every 18 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to just an average of one death per 141 total home fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA).

Holiday lights and other decorative lighting were involved in an estimated average of 150 home fires per year during the same time period. These fires caused an average of eight deaths, 14 injuries and $8.5 million in direct property damage per year.

“December is an exciting time where just about every home in the neighborhood is accented with decorations and seasonal lighting,” said Ed Paulk, Alabama State Fire Marshal.  “Although decorations and Christmas trees certainly spread holiday cheer, it is important to follow basic safety steps so celebrations go off without a hitch.”

Here are a few Christmastime safety tips from the NFPA and your Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office:

•Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

•Keep lit candles away from decorations or anything that can burn. Fire Marshal Paulk advises against the use of candles altogether: “Remember, a candle represents an open flame which can easily ignite anything that can burn!” “Certainly, never use lit candles to decorate your tree,” Paulk advises.

•Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory and check the packaging.  Some lights are only for indoor use.

•Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more strands than instructions recommend.

•Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

•Keep decorations away from windows and doors.


For proper Christmas tree safety:

•Keep your tree well watered.  The drier your tree, the more dangerous it becomes.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken bulbs or loose bulb connections.  Connect no more strands than instructions recommend.

•Never use lit candles to decorate the tree!

•Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

•Get rid of the tree when it is dry Check for recycling opportunities in your area.

•Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent deterioration and hazards and to make them last longer.