Beautifully lit Christmas trees and lights twinkling outside are a holiday tradition for millions. It is a fun family practice, but these decorations can increase the risk of house fires.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve. According to NFPA, a heat source too close to the tree causes one in four Christmas tree fires. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do happen, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death, as compared to one death per 143 total reported home fires. NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following safeguards:

  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns.
  • When using a live tree, choose one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Fresh trees are less likely to catch fire.
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2″ from the base of the trunk.
  • Add water to the tree stand daily.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree, or any other decorations are not blocking exits.
  • Replace any string of lights exhibiting worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Turn off holiday light decorations before going to bed or leaving your home.
  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.