Firefighters urge caution with Christmas festivities

Published 7:06 am Friday, December 24, 2010

During this busy holiday season people often forget that extra lights and candles create a fire hazard.

“We have had some problems with decorative lighting and candles,” Albert Lea Fire Department Capt. Lee DeVries said. “Whenever you add things like that to your home it’s an added danger.”

He said people just need to be more aware of extra hazards and make necessary precautions. Almost all holiday-related fires are preventable.

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“Be smart and be careful,” DeVries said.

He said to make sure to follow recommendations that are listed on products. He also said to keep decorative lighting and candles away from combustible items to eliminate fire hazards.

Follow these guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association.


• Stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food.

• Most cooking fires involve the stovetop. Keep flammable items away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time.

• Check the stove regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

• In homes with children, create a “kid-free zone” of three feet around the stove.

Christmas trees:

• Be sure your artificial tree is identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

• Make sure needles don’t fall off your fresh tree easily. Cut 1 to 2 inches from the trunk before placing it in the stand and water the tree daily.

• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

• Buy lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and use them as designed for indoors or outdoors.

• Replace lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three sets of mini-strings and no more than 50 screw-in bulbs. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect.

• Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

• Turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the room or going to bed.

• After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home, garage or yard. Never burn a dry tree in the fireplace.

• Bring outdoor lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.


• Consider using flameless candles. If you use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches from anything that can burn, and blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed.

• Use sturdy candle holders that won’t tip over and place them on uncluttered surfaces.

• Avoid using candles in the bedroom (where two out of five U.S. candle fires begin) or other areas where people may fall asleep.

• Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.