Shelton fire officials: Trees, lights, candles and a safe holiday season

The Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau would like to remind everyone that it is important to make fire prevention a top priority while celebrating the holiday season. Fires involving holiday trees, lights and candles pose a serious threat during this time of year.

Decorating homes, businesses, and other facilities is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase the chances of fire that can cause extensive damage to property, in addition to possible injury or death.

Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep a Christmas tree, electric lights, and candles from creating a tragedy. Ted Pisciotta, Shelton’s assistant chief for fire prevention, said everyone can help ensure a safe and happy holiday by considering these hazards:

First and foremost, any place of business, facility or home should make certain that all exits remain accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees at any time.

Indoor trees

Indoor trees can present a very significant fire hazard. If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

However, if you have a "live/cut" tree, be sure it is remains fresh and is never dry. Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull from the branches, and a needle should bend, not break, if the tree has been freshly cut.

Bouncing the tree trunk on the ground can identify old trees. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Before placing the fresh tree in the stand, cut 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.

Keep away from heat sources

Keep the tree at least three feet any heat source, such as a fireplace, space heater, radiator, or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Also avoid locating a tree where it may be exposed to long periods of sun.

Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. Do not leave a tree up for longer than two weeks and be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed near the home. Move the tree outdoors, well away from the house or any structure, such as curbside for pickup.

Holiday lights

Holiday lights can become an ignition source, regardless if indoors or outdoors. Only use lighting that has the label of an independent testing laboratory, and be sure to know whether the lights are designed for indoor or outdoor use.

Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Make sure to periodically check the wires — they should not be warm to the touch. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections.

Do not overload extension cords or outlets, and do not run an electrical cord under a rug. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.

Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.


Avoid using lit candles. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where children, pets, or cords from vacuum cleaners, etc. cannot easily knock them over.

Consider where combustible items might be placed and where candles could be knocked over and where they could be forgotten about over time. Never leave the house or go to sleep with candles burning.

Of course, battery-powered, flameless “candles” are always preferred and are available in retail stores and at online outlets.

Working smoke alarms

Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of a home, test the smoke alarms monthly, and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Be sure everyone in a household knows when and how to call 9-1-1 for help. And remember to practice a home escape plan.

For more information, the public is encouraged to contact the Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau at 203-924-1555 or on the web under “Public Safety” at

The Shelton Fire Department includes four volunteer fire companies — Echo Hose, Huntington, Pine Rock Park, and White Hills.