Fire Safety at Christmas

Christmas is a high risk period for fire outbreak in the home. Here are some tips to keep your family safe during the holidays.

Smoke Alarms

The most important thing to do is install a smoke alarm in your home if you haven't already done so.

Most fires happen at night when people are asleep. Smoke, not flames, causes the majority of fire deaths and the smoke given off by some furnishing materials becomes toxic in the air and can kill very quickly. Also, smoke does not wake people. It actually puts them into a deeper sleep. A working smoke alarm reduces the risk of death in a fire by nearly 50%.

Christmas Trees

Place real Christmas trees securely in a sturdy base filled with water - metal stands cause trees to dry out and become flammable. Check the water level daily. If choosing an artificial tree, make sure it has been pre-treated to increase flame resistance. Keep the tree away from candles, heaters, fire places or other heat sources. Dispose of the tree properly. Never burn a real tree in the fire place.

Christmas Lights

Indoors: Only buy Christmas lights marked with a safety standard. Check all connections on Christmas lights, and ensure that all electrical work (plugs, etc) are carried out by a competent person. If you are using lights from previous years examine the wiring to ensure they are not worn. If in doubt throw them out. Don't overload sockets. Unplug all Christmas lights and electrical appliances before leaving your home or going to bed at night.

Outdoors: If using lights outdoors ensure they are suitable for outdoor use. If reusing outdoor lights check all wiring and throw them out if worn. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing outdoor lights. Fasten the bulbs securely and point the sockets down to avoid moisture build up. Never use indoor extension leads outside. Keep outdoor electrical connections above ground and out of puddles and snow. If you have to replace a light bulb unplug the light string beforehand. Ensure trees hung with Christmas lights are not touching power lines.


Remember when it comes to candles:

  • Keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

  • Trim the wick to 6mm (¼ inch) each time before burning.

  • Always use an appropriate candleholder placed on a stable, heat-resistant surface.

  • Keep burning candles away from drafts, vents and air currents.

  • Extinguish a candle if it smokes or flickers repeatedly or if the flame becomes too high, cool and trim the wick, check for drafts and relight.
    Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
  • Do not burn a candle for longer than the manufacturer recommends.

  • Extinguish the flame if it comes too close to the holder or container. For a margin of safety, discontinue burning a candle when 50mm (two inches) of wax remains (12mm or ½ inch if in a container).

  • Extinguish pillar candles if the wax pool approaches the outer edge.

  • Place lighted candles at least 75mm (3 inches) apart from one another.

  • Never place a candle on top of a TV set or other similar appliance, and keep them well away from curtains.

  • Before buying candle stands check that they can be balanced safely on a flat surface.

  • Always extinguish them before going to bed or before you leave the house.

  • Never use candles on Christmas trees, even artificial ones.

  • Remember hot wax burns!

Other Christmas Fire Safety Tips

  • Never burn Christmas wrapping paper in your fireplace.

  • Keep strings of Christmas cards well away from candles and open fires.

  • Fit a spark guard to all open fires to prevent burning coals and sparks from falling onto rugs.

  • Extinguish cigarettes properly and do not let ashtrays get overfilled.

  • Check that your existing smoke alarms are in perfect working order - fit new batteries if necessary.
  • NEVER remove batteries from your smoke alarm to use in your children's Christmas toys or in the TV remote control. Smoke alarms are there to save your life in the event of fire outbreak.

  • Clean the oven and stove prior to Christmas. Often the extra load on these appliances causes a fire due to the high usage and consequent build up of grease.

Great Christmas Gift Ideas!

Give someone you care about a "safety kit" comprised of the items listed below. (Help install items if giving them to an older person.)

  • A smoke alarm

  • A NOAA Alert Radio

  • A battery operated radio

  • A fire extinguisher and fire blanket

  • A flashlight and batteries

  • A first-aid kit

  • A carbon monoxide detector

A complete kit made up of all of these items would cost from $100.00 to $140.00, depending on your selections.

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