Red Cross Offers Fire Safety Tips for Holiday Decorating

Dec 08, 2015, 14:28 ET from American Red Cross

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Every eight minutes, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster, and the vast majority of those are home fires. In a typical year, home fires kill and injure more Americans than all other natural disasters combined. With the holidays quickly approaching, the Red Cross urges Americans to be cautious about fire hazards while decorating their homes.

"The holidays are about celebration," said Russ Paulsen, executive director, Community Preparedness and Resilience Services. "We can all keep that focus on celebrating as long as we're being safe with things like holiday lights, candles, and space heaters. A little safety can save your life."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, one-fifth of home decoration fires occur in December, and over half of these are started by candles. To reduce this risk, place all candles, including menorahs, away from other objects and do not leave candles burning unattended. Avoid placing real candles on Christmas trees, and instead use battery operated candles.

Christmas tree fires are especially deadly, with one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires resulting in a death, compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires, according to the NFPA. Over the last few years, 18 percent of Christmas tree fires involved decorative lights, so the Red Cross recommends checking old strings of lights for loose bulbs or worn cords to help avoid disaster.

The Red Cross offers the following tips to keep your home safe during this holiday season.

  • Keep children, pets, and decorations away from lit candles;
  • Choose decorations and artificial trees that are flame resistant or flame retardant. Place the tree away from heat sources and exits. Water real trees daily;
  • Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Install smoke alarms;
  • If hanging stockings on a fireplace, do not use the fireplace for fires;
  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as sources of heat or stoves;
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and the total number of bulbs to 50.

On average, 7 people die and 36 people suffer injuries from home fires every day. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it's too late.  The Red Cross's Home Fire Campaign works to reduce this number by urging Americans to follow two simple steps: check existing smoke alarms and practice home fire drills. Going into the holidays, make sure to develop a fire escape plan for party guests. People can visit for more information on how to protect themselves and their loved ones from home fires.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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SOURCE American Red Cross