Adding Safety to the Holiday List


By Sam DiGiovanna


fire chief image001Now that your outdoor decorations are placed, it’s time to focus on some indoor holiday safety tips. Thousands of accidents and fires can be prevented each year if you take the time to practice safety measures, says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.

Trees & Decorations

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and heat sources. Heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water.

Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.


Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.

Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.

Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.

Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.


Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage.

Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.


Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.

Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.


Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

In homes with small children, take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.


Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Make sure trees and combustibles are kept away from the fireplace.

Make sure you have a screen or glass to prevent embers from escaping.

Ensure your fireplace is clean from the buildup of soot and debris.

If you have any questions about holiday safety, contact your local fire department.

Be safe and happy holiday.

Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

lives in Aliso Viejo.