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How to Reduce the Risk of Home Fires Over the Holidays

Tom Scott 294 edit

During the holidays, most of us take part in activities that increase fire risk, whether it’s lighting candles, using the fireplace more often, holiday decorating or distracted cooking. Over the years, we have seen thousands of claims resulting from holiday home fires. Our Risk Managers have provided this list of holiday reminders and advice to help you reduce your risk so you can focus on enjoying the season with your loved ones.

Holiday safety reminders

Prevention and awareness are the best ways to keep your home safe from fire damage. With these reminders, you should be able to relax and enjoy the holidays.


Never leave candles unsupervised.

Secure candles on stable surfaces where they won’t be at risk of being knocked over by people or pets and away from curtains, flammable decorations and breezy areas. Always extinguish candles when you leave the room. Consider using battery-operated instead of traditional candles whenever possible.

Fireplaces & Heating

Have your fireplace, chimney and furnace inspected annually.

If you have not yet had your fireplace inspected and cleaned, be cautious when using it: burn only well-seasoned wood and schedule an inspection with your chimney sweep as soon as possible. Never leave a fire unattended and wait 24 hours before removing ashes and storing them in a fireproof container away from your home.

Decorative Lighting

Always unplug lights overnight or if you're away.

When using decorative lighting, make sure to check that all the wires and bulbs are in good condition, and that no bulbs are missing. Always unplug lights overnight or when you’re away from home, especially if the lights are in contact with live decorations. Make sure extension cords are UL-approved and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for use.

Live Decorations

Water your fresh tree often to keep it from drying out.

Keep all decorations including wreaths and garland away from open flames such as candles and fireplaces. If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s UL-approved and fire-retardant. If you choose a fresh tree, water it daily. Live decorations should be removed promptly following the holidays to reduce the fire risk associated with dried-out items.


Avoid distractions in the kitchen and use timers.

Whether you’re hosting, decorating or last-minute gift wrapping, you may find yourself multitasking in the kitchen more than usual during the holidays. Try to avoid distractions and use timers to remind you to remove items from the stove and oven. Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stove-top and turn it off whenever you leave the kitchen. We also recommend keeping an ABC-rated fire extinguisher in your kitchen.

Reducing another holiday risk

Many of us travel this time of year, a fact which thieves are aware of and may take advantage of. If you travel during the holidays, keep those plans off of social media and ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your home. Make arrangements to keep snow from piling up and consider stopping mail and newspaper delivery if you will be gone for an extended period of time. And, of course, always remember to lock your doors and windows and set your home security system before leaving home.