Fire Safety Tips for the Winter Holidays

The holiday season is prime time for tree decorating, candle lighting and ramped-up cooking. While these traditions are beloved by families, they also create the perfect conditions for home fires. According to the American Red Cross, the rate of home fires generally increases during the winter months and peaks in December and January. The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is helping the community stay safe this year with the following tips:


  • If using a live tree, make sure the needles are still green and the trunk is sticky to the touch. Trees cut too long ago may be dried out and flammable. Fire-resistant, artificial trees are the safest option.
  •  Use a wide-based stand to ensure the tree does not topple. Keep live trees in containers of water.
  • Set up tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators and vents.
  • Decorate your tree with children and pets in mind — ornaments that are breakable, have small detachable parts, or look like food or candy should be hung on higher branches. Cut back lower branches to prevent eye injuries.
  • If using aspirin or floral preservers to keep live trees fresh, make sure that pets cannot access tree stand water.
  • Never burn tree branches or treated wood in your fireplace. Dispose of live trees promptly after the holidays.


  • Never leave cooking food unattended – this is the number one cause of house fires.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and tie back long hair when cooking.
  • Put pots and pans on back burners. Turn all handles towards the back of the stove.
  • Keep children and pets away from hot surfaces.
  • If cooking in oil, always keep a lid beside your pan. In case of fire, or if the oil starts to smoke or smell, cover your pan with the lid and turn off the burner. Leave the pan covered until completely cool.


  • Keep burning candles away from children and pets. Keep matches and lighters out of sight and locked away.
  • Do not leave candles unattended. Blow out candles before going to bed or leaving the home. If it is not possible to put candles out, remain in the room until the candles burn out on their own.
  • Do not place candles near draperies or other flammable items.
  • Do not go near a holiday tree with an open flame. Never decorate a tree with lit candles — instead, use battery-operated candles which eliminate risk of fire via open flame.


  • Before decorating, inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets.
  • Do not overload extension chords — use no more than three strings of lights per chord. Never plug one extension chord into another — doing so is extremely dangerous.
  • Never run extension chords under a carpet.
  • Keep electrical chords out of reach of children and pets (use baby gates, tape or string to block off-limits areas).
  • If decorating a tree, use only lights approved by Underwriters’ Lab Inc. If decorating the outside of a residence, use only lights rated for exterior use.

As always, MCFRS recommends installing working smoke alarms on every level of the home. Individuals should test smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least twice a year. Families should develop a fire escape plan and identify an outside meeting place.

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