Officials Warn about the Risk for Holiday House Fires With Decorations

By Gary Scott on December 7, 2020 at 1:29pm

The office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal is urging safety for people putting up outside Christmas decorations. With nice weather expected this week and outdoor holiday decorations one of the socially distanced ways to show the festive spirit this year, State Fire Marshal officials warn that outdoor decorations can be hazardous if proper precautions aren’t taken. 

Fire Marshal spokesperson, J.C. Fultz, says one should be careful with decorative lights: “Replace any light strands that have worn or broken cords. Make sure to read the recommendations for number of light strands that you can string together. Turn off all the light strings and decorations before going to bed. You don’t like Clark Griswold and have major issues.” 

Real Christmas trees are also another common source of house fires this time of year. Fultz says that regular maintenance on real trees is required: “If you have a real Christmas tree, they smell good; they look good, but make sure to check the water levels daily. It is not unusual for a tree to drink up to two gallons of water the first day it’s in the stand, and keep those real Christmas trees away from any heat source. It can dry them out quickly and cause major issues.” 

The National Fire Protection Association reports that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 780 home structure fires per year that began with decorations between 2013-2017. More than half of home decorations fires in December are started by candles. Candle fires peak in December followed closely by January. The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve. 

The OSFM will once again host its Keep the Wreath Red campaign to continue awareness about the importance of fire safety during the holiday season. Wreaths will be placed and lit with red bulbs outside of the OSFM offices in Springfield and at the Thompson Center in Chicago. White light bulbs will replace the red bulbs when a fire related death is reported in the state.