Holiday fire safety: How to prevent Christmas tree fires, light malfunctions and more

A Christmas tree can turn deadly in seconds
By , KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The holiday season brings a lot of decor to your home. That can also bring danger, if you are not careful.

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If you are getting a real Christmas tree this year, make sure the seller makes a fresh cut so it will absorb more water, and keep it placed away from heating sources and potential exits, advises Philadelphia Fire Department Battalion Chief Tom Kane.

Fakes trees come with their own concerns.

“With either tree, natural and artificial, you are going to be using electric lights on it, so you really need to be careful that you are not overloading circuits,” he noted.

“Make sure that you are not plugging too many lights in and that they are in good shape, too. If you have had the same lights for so many years, it’s probably a good idea to check the wiring to make sure it is not frayed or damaged in any way. If they are, just throw them out and get new ones.”

That goes for extension cords as well, “because they are only made to hold so much charge going through them,” Kane said.

Your lights and cords have likely been packed away in the basement for the past 12 months, getting baked in the heat or frozen in the cold, so it’s important to check them each time you bring them back out.

Kane said you shouldn’t run wires under carpets either.

“Anytime someone steps on it, it’s going to wear away at it, and if it gets to the point of exposed wiring, you are not going to be able to see it,” he explained.

The highest rate of candle fires is also around this time of year — specifically Dec. 23, 24 and 25 — according to Kane.

“Anytime you have a candle burning, you want to have it in a protected glass case. It’s almost like your stove: You don’t want to leave your stovetop on and leave the room. Candles, the same way,” he recommended. “It’s great having candles burning, but if you are not careful with it, all of that goes out the window.”


1. If purchasing a fresh tree, make sure the seller makes an additional cut on the bottom at the time of purchase, and give the tree plenty of water.

2. Examine the lights you plan to put on a fresh tree, or take a close look at the condition of the lights of your pre-lit tree.

3. A tree should never block an exit.

4. Make sure the extension cords you removed from storage in your attic or basement are not frayed or broken with wires exposed.

5. Do not overload extension cords with too many items. They have a limit as to what they can handle.

6. Do not leave candles unattended or with an open flame exposed. Make sure they are in a candle holder or a glass container.

7. Please keep in mind that most of the items in your home are plastic, which is petroleum-based. Not only does it give off a toxic gas, but any fire will burn hotter and faster.

8. Do not overload the electrical circuits in your home with too many inside and outside decorations. Inflatable lawn decorations can draw a fair amount of electrical juice to run.

9. Double-check your smoke alarms to make sure they are in working order. Philadelphia residents can call 311, and the fire department will install them for free.

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10. Don’t have a carbon monoxide detector? You should. It should be placed where you sleep.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: National Fire Protection Association/YouTube