FASNY Provides Life-Saving Holiday Tips


The holiday season has begun to bustle! People are celebrating, decorating with lights, putting up Christmas trees, lighting candles and preparing special meals. The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) would like ...

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Trees, Lights, Candles: Check Your Holiday Safety List –Twice!

Photo by: Law Hui Sheng, via Free Images.

New York, NY - December 16, 2015 - The holiday season has begun to bustle! People are celebrating, decorating with lights, putting up Christmas trees, lighting candles and preparing special meals. The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) would like to remind all New Yorkers of the safety hazards associated with festivities this time of the year, and to follow a few simple tips to ensure a happy and safe holiday.
“These tips should be at the top of every holiday list,” said FASNY President Robert McConville. “For safety’s sake please check older electric light strands for frayed wiring or broken bulbs; keep candles away from combustible materials such as curtains; and continually hydrate your Christmas tree so it doesn’t dry out. We see more and more fires happening during the holidays, so we urge you to follow this advice to enjoy a happy, festive time while keeping your home and family safe.”

Between 2007 and 2011, fire departments in the United States responded to over 10,000 house fires that were caused by candles. An additional 230 house fires in that same period can be traced to dry and/or poorly-wired Christmas trees. Nearly half of all fires during the holiday season are started because decorations are placed too close to a heat source. (Source: NFPA)
FASNY and the National Fire Protection Association offer the following safety tips: 

When choosing a Christmas tree –

  • Check a tree for dryness while at the seller’s lot – shake the trunk above a light-colored surface and watch for falling needles. If too many dry needles fall, choose a fresher tree. A locally-grown tree from New York may be fresher than one brought in from out of state.
  • Avoid trees with an artificial-looking green tint on the branches or trunk – these trees may have been spray-painted to improve their appearance. The paint used may be combustible and could be hazardous as well. When in doubt, ask the seller if he or she sells painted trees.
  • Have the merchant saw off an inch or two from the trunk of the tree to help keep the tree fresh longer at home; also, if your tree is left outside, placing the trunk in a bucket of water will help keep it fresh.
  • When disposing of a tree, DO NOT leave it inside a home or building; DO NOT place it against the exterior of a home or building. In both cases, the tree is likely dried out and thus poses an increased fire hazard.

When choosing holiday decorations and lighting –

  • When possible, choose decorations made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials. Look for these designations on the product’s packaging.
  • Purchase lights and electrical decorations stamped with the name or symbol of an independent testing lab – for example, “UL”, or Underwriters’’ Laboratories – and ALWAYS follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance. 
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strands.  Look for frayed cables and replace any damaged or missing bulbs before plugging lights in.
  • Do not overload extension cords, “power strips” and electrical outlets.
  • When using power cords to illuminate outdoor displays, ensure that they are designated for EXTERNAL or outdoor use only – NEVER use power cords that are meant for indoor use. This information is usually indicated on the product’s packaging. 
  • Turn lights off overnight. If possible, use a timer device to turn your lights off automatically. This not only lessens the risk of fire, but saves on your energy bills as well.

If you light holiday candles or candelabras (menorahs, window candles, etc.) –

  • Keep lighted candles and candelabras at least one foot away from any combustible materials. DO NOT place candles anywhere near window curtains, furniture, wrapped gifts or anything else that could ignite.
  • Place candles and candelabras where they cannot be knocked down or tipped/blown over. If possible, keep the candle inside a weighted holder or one with a wide base.
  • Extinguish a candle before it burns to within two inches of its holder.
  • NEVER leave a lighted candle unattended – extinguish a candle before leaving the room.
  • Discourage the use of candles in bedrooms and other areas where you may fall asleep.
  • Store matches and lighters in high places, out of the reach of children, and ideally inside a locked cabinet.
  • Consider using battery-powered candles instead; if using electrical, “plug-in” candles - follow manufacturers’ instructions.

For more information, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website.
About FASNY: Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the more than 90,000 volunteer firefighters in New York State.  For more information, visit www.fasny.com.