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Each year, holiday home fires cause over $990 million in damage and injure or kill thousands of people nationwide. But, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of fire and ensure your property and loved ones are safe this holiday season.

Basic Holiday Home Safety

Check that you have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home by testing them monthly and keeping them clean and equipped with fresh batteries.
Install well-maintained carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home.
Have a home escape plan and make sure all of your family members know the plan and where to meet.
Have emergency numbers posted where everyone can easily access them in case of emergency.
Have a fire extinguisher on hand and make sure all family members can access it.
Store all ladders and other holiday decorating equipment properly to minimize unnecessary home accidents.
Christmas Trees


Make sure that needles on fresh trees are green and fresh. Buying a U-cut tree means you know exactly when that tree was harvested. But even then, your tree could be suffering from drought.

Check needles by tugging on branches to see if the needles stay in place or come off in your hand. On a fresh, well-hydrated tree, the needles will not break free and will feel flexible, not dry.
The trunk, especially at the cut end, should be sticky to the touch.
Cut trees should pass the “bounce test.” Bounce the tree trunk on the ground and check for loose needles falling to the ground (this should be minimal.)
Loose needles mean your tree is dried out and could be a fire hazard.


Do not put your tree up too early (two weeks for a fresh tree is the max.)
Keep trees away from heat sources like fireplaces and heaters. Heat will dry out your tree at a more rapid rate.
Keep candles, cigarettes and other flammables away from trees.
Keep your tree well hydrated by refilling the stand regularly.


Discard your tree promptly, once it becomes dry.
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood stove.
Dispose of your tree properly by community pick-up service or by taking it to a tree disposal or recycling center.

Holiday Candles

Though candles can bring a warm glow to your holiday festivities, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends that it’s best to avoid using lit candles when possible. If you do choose to use candles, make sure to use stable holders or bases, and that candles are placed safely in areas in which they cannot easily be knocked down or catch something nearby on fire. Never put lit candles on or near a tree or leave them unattended, as this could very well cause a catastrophic fire in your home.


Inspect your holiday lights. The U.S. Fire Administration advises you to check for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
Don’t overload outlets.
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
Don’t leave holiday lights on when you’re away.


Use only nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations placed away from open flames or heating sources.
Don’t dispose of wrapping paper in a fireplace. This can throw off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a very large chimney fire.
Use only flame-retardant artificial trees.
By following these tips provided by the U.S. Fire Administration, you can reduce your chances of a devastating holiday fire.
The attorneys at Meshbesher & Spence would like to wish you and your loved ones a safe and fun holiday season.