Festive celebrations, flickering lights and winter greens are all hallmarks of the holiday season. However, they also present fire risks that can quickly turn into devastation. Holiday safety is an issue that burns brightest from late November to mid-January, when travel spikes and families gather to cook delicious meals. This year’s fire prevention theme is “Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.”

Unattended cooking is the leading source of home fires and can cause injuries or death to people and animals. By using the safety measures below, you can protect your home, belongings, and loved ones from the fire inside your home.

Safety Tips for the Kitchen

Kitchen safety tips

  • Be alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, 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 or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.
  • If you decide to fight a small (grease) cooking fire:
    • On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
    • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
  • If you have any doubt about fighting a small fire:
    • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
    • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from outside the home.

Holiday Decorating

Another activity we think of during the holiday season is decorating. More than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candle, and most holiday tree fires are caused by electrical problems and dry trees. Please take this time to use precautions by following the basic steps below to ensure you and your family remain safe while enjoying the fun activities throughout the season.

Holiday decorating safety tips


  • Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Inspect holiday lights each year before you put them up.
  • Throw away light strands with frayed, pinched, worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections.
  • Replace bulbs by unplugging the light string and be sure to match voltage and wattage to the original bulb.
  • Never connect more than one extension cord together; instead use a single cord that is long enough to reach the outlet without stretching.
  • Keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal rain gutters when hanging outdoor lights.
  • Use insulated tape or plastic clips instead of metal nails or tacks to hang lights or decorations in place.
  • Choose the correct ladder for hanging lights.
  • Always turn off lights before leaving home or going to bed.


  • Artificial tree: check that it is labeled “fire resistant.”
  • Live tree:
    • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
    • Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption before placing the tree in the stand.
    • Place your tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, making certain not to block doorways.
    • Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children can reach them.
    • Water your tree every day; a dry tree is dangerous because it can catch on fire easily.
    • Check with your local community to find a recycling program.

A live tree burn conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows just how quickly a dried-out tree fire burns, with flashover occurring in less than one minute, as compared to a well-watered tree, which burns at a much slower rate.

More information

For more information on fire prevention or holiday tips, please click on the following links below:

Making a Home Fire Escape Plan (video)

Red Cross: Home Fire Preparedness

Prevent a Turkey Fryer Fire

FEMA: After the Fire

Now is the time to educated yourself on the steps to reduce the likelihood of having a fire and start enjoying the holidays.

Kristin Daniel is an emergency management specialist for the Office of Emergency Management & Resilience.

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Published on Nov. 13, 2020

Estimated reading time is 3.8 min.

Views to date: 217

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