Holiday Fire Safety

This content is provided by the Philadelphia Fire Department and is a reminder to all to prevent tragedies such as the one that took the life of local 2nd grader Amanda Shoenberger and her parents in a preventable Christmas Eve fire. The only smoke detector in the home had no battery.

Take a moment NOW to prevent a holiday fire tragedy. This is a timely reminder from the Fire Prevention Division which urges everyone to keep fire safety in mind when handling trees, lighting, decorations, wrapping, and gifts.

Here are some suggestions for keeping the Holidays “Happy.”


  • Check light wiring and sockets for breaks and shorts; replace as necessary
  • Never connect more than three strands of lights to one extension cord.
  • Use only UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) listed decorations and cords
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to house, trees, or posts, with sockets pointing down to keep moisture from collecting. Don’t use indoor lights outside.
  • Do not use electric lights on metallic trees. Use spotlights instead for illumination.
  • Turn off electrical decorations when you leave home or go to bed.


  • Do not use candles near decorations in your home.
  • Avoid placing candles near drapes or curtains.
  • Place candles in a safe base to prevent tipover.
  • Keep candles out the reach of children, and where they won’t be knocked over by pets. Do not leave candles burning in unoccupied rooms.


  • Live decorations such as evergreen boughs and wreaths, laurel and holly last longer and are less of a safety hazard when displayed outside. Indoors, place them in water if possible and keep them away from heat sources. Discard promptly when dry.
  • Make sure artificial decorations are labeled “flame resistant,” or “fire retardant.”
  • Apply artificial spray “snow” in well-ventilated areas and avoid using near ignition sources.


  • If you buy a natural grown tree, be sure it is fresh. When the tree is brought home, cut the trunk about one inch above the original cut. Place the tree in water and leave it outdoors, if possible, until you are ready to decorate it.
  • When you bring the tree into your home, place it in a sturdy stand with plenty of room for water. Check the water level and add as needed. Keep the tree away from stairs, doorways, and exits. Never run electric trains under the tree, a spark could set it on fire.
  • Take the tree down as soon as the needles start to fall off; place the tree, untied and free of decorations, outdoors in a safe area until rubbish removal day.


  • Overindulgence on holidays by those who drink, particularly if they also smoke, contributes to thousands of house fires and other accidents every year. Droppd cigarettes, often associated with drinking, are the nation’s leading cause of fire deaths.
  • Check ashtrays carefully, letting them stand overnight before emptying.
  • Check furniture, carpets, and wastebaskets for smoldering cigaretters after entertaining.
  • Keep alcohol and smoking materials out of the reach of children


  • Having trouble finding a gift for a family member or friend? Lithium batter smoke alarms make thoughtful gifts. Escape ladders and carbon monoxide alarms show your concern for your loved ones and make Holiday shopping easier. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and plan a home fire drill.

Some other general holiday reminders include: keep children from playing under or near Holiday trees, to avoid the danger of it falling over; be especially careful with matches and smoking materials; and review the family’s home escape plan for quick exit in case of a fire emergency. Also, even with the pressure of last-minute shopping and errands, never leave children alone or without proper supervision.

If your family is financially unable to purchase smoke detectors for your home, please contact your local fire departments. Many fire departments offer programs to donate smoke detectors or provide them at greatly reduced rates.