Holiday Fire Safety

Home and fire safety is a year round project, however for many Fire Departments the holiday season is the busiest time of year.  Decorating homes and businesses during the holiday season is a long-standing tradition; unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of a serious fire. Following these few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and the ever popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy.   Have a fire safe holiday season.

  • Select a fresh tree.  Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
  • Keep the tree watered.  Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are usually not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.
  • Never put lit candles on a tree or place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.  Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • Never burn your tree or any parts of it. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.  Athens Services collects holiday trees each year, from the day after Christmas through the second week of January, on your normal pickup day.
  • Inspect holiday lights each year 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.
  • 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. Never leave holiday lights unattended.
  • All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
  • Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit puts you and your family at risk.
  • Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.
  • Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.  If you do use lit candles, make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning.

The San Marino Fire Department provides a service referred to as Operation Fire Safe.  Operation Fire Safe is a home safety inspection survey to help residents identify fire and life safety hazards in their homes.  The program is available year-round, and available to any resident of the City.  If any resident has questions concerning holiday fire safety feel free to contact the San Marino Fire Department at (626)300-0735 or

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