Holiday Fire Safety Precautions: What to Know


The holiday season brings joy to countless people who look forward to special moments with friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of increased fire risk. 

Each year, thousands of fires occur during the holiday season due to faulty lighting, unsupervised space heaters and parched Christmas trees. At the same time, many fires start because people are distracted or overwhelmed while trying to prepare meals for large gatherings. 

According to Travis Ellerbroek of SERVPRO, a leading Fire & Water Cleanup & Restoration company, far too many holiday fires start in the kitchen. 

“The best holiday celebrations center on food,” said Ellerbroek. “Unfortunately, many fires occur in the kitchen, especially when people fail to take precautions.” 

To reduce your risk, it’s always best to keep flammable items such as towels and grocery bags far away from the oven and stove. Immediately clean up any greasy spills, which can be especially serious fire hazards. If you plan to deep fry a turkey, be sure to position the fryer away from trees and structures. You should also make sure the turkey is fully thawed and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular type of fryer. 

With that said, while a lot of trouble occurs during food preparation, according to Ellerbroek, it’s really just one of the reasons fires are so prevalent during the holiday season. 

“During the holiday season, we have certain traditions and habits that make fires more likely,” he said. “This time of year, for instance, it’s common for people to accidentally overload electrical circuits to accommodate everything from holiday lighting to cooking appliances.”

Since about a quarter of Christmas tree fires are caused by some sort of electrical problem, it’s important to take precautions. This includes inspecting lights for cord damage and disposing of any suspect wire with frayed areas or damaged plastic coatings.

It’s also important to avoid overloading electrical circuits. A standard household circuit has the ability to power about five dozen strings of 50-bulb mini lights. If you want to use more than this, it’s best to spread the light strands across several different outlets. You should also avoid plugging your lights into outlets shared with major appliances. It’s also important to shut off holiday lights before leaving home or going to sleep. You can automate this by installing timers that cut power to lights at specified times.

That said, while decorations and Christmas tree lighting should be a primary focus, the real problem can be the tree itself. 

“If you have a natural Christmas tree, it’s very important to keep it hydrated,” said Ellerbroek. “Depending on the humidity in your home, a tree can dry out in about a day or two. Once the branches dry, it can easily catch fire. You can help your tree draw water by drilling holes into the base of the trunk before you install the stand. You should also check the water levels twice a day and familiarize yourself with the Christmas tree safety checklist from the National Fire Protection Association.”

It’s not just Christmas trees that increase the risk of holiday fires. Because they introduce open flames to a home, menorahs and kinaras seriously increase the risk of uncontrolled fires. If you plan to use them, keep holiday decorations and curtains at least three feet away from your candles. You should also consider placing your menorah or kinara on a non-flammable surface, such as a tray lined with aluminum foil, that will catch the melting candle wax.

When fires break out in a home, it can put people’s lives at risk. It can also lead to thousands of dollars in damages and turn beautiful homes into toxic environments. 

“At SERVPRO, we see plenty of homes that have been severely damaged or destroyed by accidental fires,” said Ellerbroek. “While we take pride in our ability to restore homes to their original states, we know the process can be stressful and heartbreaking. That’s why we work to increase awareness about fire dangers. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

About SERVPRO of West Denver

With a 20-year history, SERVPRO® of West Denver is the area’s longest-running franchise. Leveraging the best tools and years of experience, we provide a complete spectrum of restoration services for residential homes and commercial properties, including local businesses, medical buildings, churches, schools, and high-security government buildings.

From fire and smoke damage to water and mold, our skilled team provides comprehensive restorative services, while also taking time to give back to the local community. If you are dealing with damage resulting from fire, smoke or water, the experienced team at SERVPRO is ready to respond, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Travis Ellerbroek