Water those trees: Fire safety tips to follow during the holidays

The Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau would like to remind everyone that it is important to make fire prevention a top priority when decorating and celebrating this 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. These same decorations may increase your chances of fire that can cause extensive damage to property, in addition to possible injury or death.

Following a few tips can keep a Christmas tree, electric lights and candles from creating a tragedy.

Ted Pisciotta, assistant chief, fire prevention, believes that 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 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. For live trees, 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 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 can become an ignition source, regardless if indoors or outdoors. Only use lighting that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they 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 becoming more available in retail stores and on the web.


Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call 9-1-1 for help.

Remember to practice your 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 www.cityofshelton.org.