Decorate for fire safe holiday season

by Staff Sgt. Derek Hansen
366th Civil Engineer Squadron

12/8/2014 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho  -- As the holiday season approaches, we're all looking forward to special gatherings and celebrations with friends and loved ones. It's a time to decorate our homes in our own special way to make the holiday a memorable event.

Holiday decorations can be joyful but also dangerous if improperly used, especially for children. Every year thousands of needless injuries and deaths are caused by decorations. A little caution and planning while decorating will help you and your families avoid tragedy during the upcoming holiday season.


To help ensure a fire safe holiday season for everyone, below are several basic fire safety guidelines to be observed.


From 2007 to 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 230 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of:

- 6 civilian fire deaths

- 22 civilian fire injuries

- $18.3 million in direct property damage

On average, one in every 40 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires.

When purchasing a live Christmas tree ensure that it is kept moist to prevent a very serious fire hazard. A dried out Christmas tree can be consumed by fire in less than 30 seconds. Take special precautions when buying your Christmas tree. Trees with brown shedding needles should be rejected. When you bring a tree home, cut about an inch off the end of the trunk. This will remove the dried end and allow the tree to absorb water. Be careful not to block exit paths and doorways with the tree. Decorative lights should always be turned off when leaving the home, or when everyone goes to bed.

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.


Candles are a traditional and beautiful part of the season. But they're still a direct source of fire in your home. Remember that a flickering flame is a thing of fascination to little children.

- Keep candles a safe distance from other decorations.

- Keep candles, matches and lighters away from children's reach.

- Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.

- Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.

- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.

- Always use non-flammable holders.

- Place candles where they cannot be tipped over.


Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that kills without warning. It claims the lives of hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more ill. Many household items including gas- and oil-burning furnaces, portable generators and charcoal grills produce this poison gas. Following these important steps can keep your family safe.

- Install battery-operated or battery back-up CO detectors near every sleeping area in your home.

- Check CO detectors regularly to be sure they are functioning properly.

- Have your gas or oil furnace inspected every year.

- Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and windows are open.

- Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors and windows.


- Turn the holiday lights off every four hours to cool the bulbs when they're on a Christmas tree, especially a cut tree inside your home.

- Inspect lights for broken or cracked sockets and frayed wires.

- Do not use the lights unless they have a UL approved safety label.

- Do not overload extension cords or outlets.

- Do not use indoor lights outside or visa-versa.


There will be festive parades and holiday specials on television; don't let this take you away from the kitchen. Did you know that cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries? Unattended cooking is a HO HO, NO NO. By following a few safety tips you can prevent these fires.

- Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don't use the oven or stovetop.

- Stay in the kitchen while you're frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

- If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you're cooking.

- Keep anything that can catch fire -- oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains away from your stovetop.

This message pertains to decorating your home. There are restrictions to the dorms and other non-residential occupancies. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Fire Prevention Office at 828-6292 ext. 2.

Let's all be careful and have a fire safe and carefree holiday season.