Christmas trees, candles pose fire risks during holidays

NEW YORK — More than 10,000 house fires were caused by candles in the United States between 2007 and 2011.

An additional 230 house fires over the same four-year period were traced to dry and/or poorly-wired Christmas trees.

The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York wants New Yorkers to be aware of those statistics and the safety hazards associated with holiday festivities.

The Firemen’s Association and Fire Protection Association offer tips to help keep the holidays safe, including Christmas tree and candle precautions.

“We see more and more fires happening during the holidays, so we urge you to follow this advice to enjoy a happy, festive time while keeping your home and family safe,” Fire Association President Robert McConville said in a statement. “These tips should be at the top of every holiday list.”


• Check a tree for dryness while at the seller’s lot by shaking the trunk and watching for falling needles. If too many dry needles fall, choose a fresher tree.

• Avoid trees with an artificial-looking green tint on the branches or trunk, as these may have been spraypainted with combustible or hazardous paint to improve their appearance.

• Have the seller saw off an inch or 2 from the trunk of the tree to help keep it fresh longer at home; also, if your tree is left outside and the temperatures aren’t below freezing, placing the trunk in a bucket of water will help keep it fresh.

• When disposing of a tree, don’t leave it inside a home or building or place it against the exterior of a structure. The tree is likely dried out and poses an increased fire hazard.


• When possible, choose decorations made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or noncombustible materials.

• Purchase lights and electrical decorations stamped with the name or symbol of an independent testing lab. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.

• Carefully inspect new and previously used light strands. Look for frayed cables and replace any damaged or missing bulbs before plugging lights in.

• Do not overload extension cords, power strips and electrical outlets.

• When using power cords to illuminate outdoor displays, ensure that they are designated for external or outdoor use only — never use power cords that are meant just for indoor use.

• Turn lights off overnight. If possible, use a timer device to turn your lights off automatically.


• Keep lighted candles and candelabras at least a foot away from any combustible materials. Don’t put candles anywhere near window curtains, furniture, wrapped gifts or anything else that could ignite.

• Place candles and candelabras where they cannot be knocked down or tipped/blown over. If possible, keep the candle inside a weighted holder or one with a wide base.

• Extinguish a candle before it burns to within 2 inches of its holder.

• Never leave a lit candle unattended.

• Discourage the use of candles in bedrooms and other areas where you may fall asleep.

• Store matches and lighters in high places, out of the reach of children, and ideally inside a locked cabinet.

• Consider using battery-powered candles instead; if using electrical, “plug-in” candles, follow manufacturers’ instructions.