Preventing fire hazards when decorating for the holidays

Local News

Burnt outdoor Christmas lights plug. Image courtesy Orange Fire Rescue EMS

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The State Fire Marshal is reminding people to inspect holiday lights and decorations for potential fire dangers.

The state’s Department of Fire Services issued these ideas to keep in mind when decorating both inside and outside your home or business.

Selecting a Tree: When purchasing a tree, buy one that is as fresh as possible. Tap the butt on the ground, grab a branch near the top, and pull your hand along it slowly. Needles should not fall off. If you bend a needle and it breaks before bending in half, it is too dry! Make a fresh cut an inch or two off the bottom before placing it in the stand. This will help it absorb water better. Water a live tree every day. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. If you use an artificial tree, select one with a flame retardant label.

Placing a Tree: Make sure you do not block your second way out of a room in case of emergency. Keep the path clear to windows, the porch door or another door you do not often use in the winter. Place your tree and decorations away from heaters, fireplaces, candles, and other sources of heat.

Decorating the Tree: Purchase electric holiday lights that are listed by an approved testing agency and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Consider switching to newer LED lights that are cooler and use less electricity. Before using older lights, inspect them for frayed wires or other defects. Make sure the bulbs themselves are not touching the tree, curtains, wrapped gifts, or tree skirts. Never use lighted candles as decorations on a tree.

Turn Off the Lights: Turn off all holiday lights when leaving the house or going to bed for the night. Consider using a timer so you will not forget.

Outdoor Decorations:

  • Be sure to use only lights rated for outdoor use.
  • Consider replacing older outdoor lights with newer LED lights that are ‘greener’ and cooler.
  • Securely anchor outdoor lights and decorations against the wind and storms with insulated holders or hooks.
  • Use electrical connection protectors to keep water out.
  • All outdoor electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.
  • Do not overload circuits. 15 amp circuits support 1,800 watts and 20 amp circuits support 2,400 watts.
  • Do not drive nails, staples or tacks through wiring insulation; this can cause a fire.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life.

For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or the Office of the State Fire Marshal at 1-877-9-NO FIRE or on-line at www.mass.gov/service-details/winter-holiday-fire-safety.

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