Fire Department Offers Holiday Safety Tips on Candle Care, Christmas Trees & More

With Hanukkah celebrations under way and Christmas and New Year’s Eve approaching, Clark County fire officials are reminding residents to use extra care over the holidays to prevent home fires.

“We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season, but it’s important to remember that there are some fire hazards more likely to occur this time of year,” said Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck. “Cooking-related fires and fires caused by candles definitely tend to increase. We also encourage people to place decorations a safe distance from heat sources and to inspect and replace damaged light strings before plugging them in.”

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires nationally, and the incidence of cooking fires increases over major holidays. Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day are the top three days of the year in the United States for candle-related fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The following holiday safety tips are recommended:

Candle Care – Remember: December is the peak time of year for home candle fires

  • Place candles in stable holders on uncluttered surfaces where they cannot be easily knocked down by children or pets.
  • Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Keep candles at least 3 feet away from drapes, tablecloths or any items that can burn. More than half of all candle fires start when things that can burn are too close to the candle.
  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Don’t leave children in a room with a burning candle, and ever leave the house when candles are burning.
  • Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. More candle fires start in bedrooms than any other room.
  • Don’t burn candles all the way down – put them out before they get too close to the holder or container.
  • Beware of using candles for light. Have flashlights ready to use during power outages.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).

Holiday Lights & Decorations

  • Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive wear before putting them up.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  • Limit use of extension cords to temporary uses. They should not serve as a permanent power source for any appliance or stationary device.
  • Never run extension cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands to connect, usually no more than three. 
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Never dispose of wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can result in a very large fire, throwing off sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.

Preventing Christmas Tree Fires

  • Place Christmas trees away from fireplaces, heaters and other heat sources.
  • Select a fresh tree.  Needles should be green and should not break off easily. The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
  • Keep your tree in water through the entire season so it doesn’t dry out; check water levels often.
  • If you are using an artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
  • Replace broken or worn light strands. Follow manufacturer instructions on the number of light strands to connect. Almost one third of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Do not leave a live tree up for more than 2 weeks. When needles start to drop off, it’s time to move the tree outdoors. There are dozens of drop-off tree sites as part of the local Christmas Tree Recycling Program from Dec. 26-Jan.15. Locations include Clark County’s Sunset and Mountain Crest parks. Many other sites are listed on the Las Vegas Spring Preserve website: https://www.springspreserve.org/education-conservation/christmas-tree-recycling-sites.html 

Cooking & Holiday Entertaining

  • Don’t leave cooking food unattended; always supervise children in cooking areas.
  • Keep flammable materials – such as oven mitts, utensils, wrappers and towels – away from the stove.
  • Every kitchen should have a working, multi-purpose fire extinguisher with an ABC rating.
  • Don’t forget to turn off your oven, fryer, barbecue and stove-top burners.
  • Stay alert. If you are tired or consuming alcohol, don’t cook because you are more likely to make mistakes.
  • If you or your guests smoke, provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • After a party, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are operational.

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Clark County is a dynamic and innovative organization dedicated to providing top-quality service with integrity, respect and accountability.  With jurisdiction over the world-famous Las Vegas Strip and covering an area the size of New Jersey, Clark is the nation’s 11th-largest county and provides extensive regional services to 2.3 million citizens and 45.6 million visitors a year (2019). Included are the nation’s 9th-busiest airport, air quality compliance, social services and the state’s largest public hospital, University Medical Center. The County also provides municipal services that are traditionally provided by cities to 1 million residents in the unincorporated area. Those include fire protection, roads and other public works, parks and recreation, and planning and development.