Fire Chief Offers Holiday Safety Tips

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By Christopher P. DeNaples
Fire Chief, Dunmore Fire Department

Every year there are house fires and injuries reported, as a result of improper set up of indoor and out door Christmas decorations. The following tips can prevent some of this incidents. The last thing we should worry about during the holiday season is a fire or injury, that can be prevented by just having some situational awareness.

When decorating outdoors some items to keep in mind are:

  1. Use extension cords and decorations that are recommenced for outdoor use by the manufacturer.
  2. Make sure all outdoor extension cords and decorations are plugged into a receptacles that is protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s)
  3. Check all new/reused decorations and extension cords for damage before plugging in.
  4. Keep all decorations, lights and extension cords free of standing water or snow.
  5. Keep all spotlights and any decoration that produces heat clear of flammable items and in well ventilated areas.
  6. Use fiberglass ladders that are in good condition when decorating outdoors, metal ladders conduct electricity.
  7. Use the proper size ladder for the height you need.
  8. Keep yourself and any equipment you are using to decorate at least 10 feet from any power lines.
  9. Do not mount/secure decorations or extension cords in a manner that will cause damage to the cord or decoration.

When picking a Christmas tree and indoor decorations keep in mind:

  1. Purchase lights and decorations that require electricity from a reputable retailer.
  2. When possible use LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler than traditional incandescent lights.
  3. Do not overload any receptacles/circuits, per-plan before placing decorations in accordance with the number and locations or receptacles.
  4. Always follow the manufacturers use and care instructions for all electrical decorations and extension cords.
  5. Make sure that extension cords are not pinched in doors, windows or are under furniture or heavy objects; this can cause damage to the cords.
  6. Do not mount or secure decorations or power cords in a manner that will cause damage to the cord or decoration.

When choosing, decorating and caring for a real Christmas tree:

  1. Choose a tree with fresh green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  2. Make sure the tree is a least three feet away from any heat source.
  3. Place tree in an area that it is not blocking an exit.
  4. Add water to the tree stand daily.
  5. Use lights that are inspected and make sure all bulbs are tight.

Any indoor/outdoor electrical decorations, as well as extension cords should not be used if they are not Underwriter Laboratories (UL) listed, which can be found on the tag or label. There has been some fraudulent labeling, if you have any doubt that your item may be incorrectly labeled (UL) you can send an email with a photo of the label to UL at

Both indoor/outdoor decorations should be turned off before going to bed or leaving your home. Many of the safety recommendations listed in the article are based off literature from the National Fire Protection Assocation (NFPA), which are meant to prevent fire and injuries that are found to cause most incidents regarding Christmas decorations nationally.  

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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