How to Avoid Holiday Home Fires

Having personally experienced a house fire on Christmas Eve 2014, I am very interested in avoiding the same fate in the future. Even though our local fire department was able to douse the flames relatively quickly and we did not lose our dogs or valuables, the fire was devastating. No one wants to come home to the sound of fire engines, black smoke pouring out of your front door and black soot coating every nook and cranny of the home. While we were fortunate to have excellent insurance, which allowed us to restore our furnishings and live close by for nine months, the fire was still extremely disruptive and very sad.

So.. here are some tips for avoiding house fires at the holidays.
One out of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. Our fire began when some twinkling lights came in contact with gold mesh that was draped over a manger scene—all placed on a wicker table that burst into flames.

According to, “most house fires happen during the holidays, and Christmas trees are one of the biggest reasons“. Even more frightening is the fact that, once Christmas trees ignite, they can explode into flames in seconds. Be sure you pick a Christmas tree that is green and whose needles do not fall off easily, and then water your tree daily. Brown needles are highly flammable.

Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit. This is especially important for older people, who might have trouble navigating an escape.

When lighting your tree, only use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are appropriate for inside use and some should only be used outside. If the light strand has worn or frayed cords or loose bulb connections, replace the string. Do not connect too many light strands together. NEVER use candles as lights on the tree.

Be sure to turn your tree lights off when you leave your house or retire for the night. If we had done this simple step, we would have avoided our fire.

With outside lights, be careful with the plug-in cords. These cords are susceptible to water and can shock you or catch fire. In the same vein, remember not to use indoor light bulbs outside your home or outside light bulbs inside.

Barbara Gracey Backer
Barbara Gracey Backer

Barbara Gracey Backer is the Vice-President of Gracey-Backer, Inc., an Insurance Agency in Delray Beach, Florida specializing in All Lines of Professional and Personal Insurance. She may be contacted at (561) 404-5746 or at

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