Christmas Tree Safety

In a four-year span, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 240 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. Home Christmas tree fires caused an average of 13 civilian deaths, 27 civilian injuries, and $16.7 million in direct property damage per year. Although these fires are not common, when they do occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 18 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death compared to an average of one death per 141 total reported home structure fires.

Carefully selecting a fresh, green needle or artificial tree, placing the tree at least 3 inches from any heat source, properly lighting the tree and disposing of the tree when the needles start to drop are all essential in making the holidays safer. Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 150 home structure fires per year in this same period. These fires caused an average of eight civilian deaths, 14 civilian injuries, and $8.5 million in direct property damage per year.

In a study of fall-related injuries during the holiday season, an annual average of roughly 5,800 fall injuries related to holiday decorating.


Each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injuring 1,650 more, and cause over $900 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday season. Christmas tree fires typically result from shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters, or matches. Well-watered trees are not a problem, but dry and neglected trees can be. By following some of these precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.

10 Christmas Tree Fire-Safe Tips

  1. When decorating your tree, always use lights listed by a testing laboratory. Some lights are designed only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Larger tree lights should also have some type of reflector rather than a bare bulb.
  2. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use tree lights. Any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used. Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
  3. Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  4. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life.
  5. Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and make sure any lit candles in the room are placed well away from tree branches.
  6. Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles. Check for fresh, green needles. And place your tree in a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  7. If you purchase an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.
  8. Children are fascinated with Christmas trees. Keep a watchful eye on them when around the tree and do not let them play with the wiring or lights. Store matches and lighters up high, out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  9. Make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.
  10. Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.

Use Candles with Care

December is the peak month for candle fires, with nearly twice the average number of incidents. On a national average 44% of reported candle fires in the home started in the bedroom.