OH fire marshal urges caution in holiday decorating

(Toledo News Now) - State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers wants to warn the public of factors which pose an increased fire threat during the holidays: decorative lighting, live Christmas trees and unattended candles.

"Used properly, these can be important family traditions," said Flowers. "While Christmas tree fires are not common, when they occur, they often become deadly."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, one-third of holiday fires are electrical failures.

  • Never use lights with damaged sockets or wires. 
  • Check each strand before putting them up; they may have been damaged in storage.
  • If you find damage to sockets or strands, throw them away. 
  • Replace burned out bulbs with bulbs of the same wattage as indicated on the tag of the light set. 


  • Purchase lights that have the label of a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and use the lights according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Outdoor lights are specifically labeled for outdoor use. Outdoor lights should be fastened securely and placed on a ground fault interrupter circuit.
  • Do not connect too many light sets together and never use extension cords that are worn or cracked. Do not run them under rugs or over sharp objects.
  • Turn off lights when you go to bed or leave the house.


  • Live Christmas trees should be as fresh as possible. Make a fresh cut at the base of the trunk, and place the tree in a sturdy stand. Water the tree daily. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
  • One in five holiday fires occur because a heat source is too close to the tree. Place the tree as far away from heat sources as possible. Never place lighted candles on or near the tree, or where the tree may fall, if knocked by a pet or child.
  • Do not block primary or alternative escape routes with a tree, decorations or presents.

Flowers encourages Ohioans to have a working smoke alarm installed on every level of the home, as well as in each bedroom or sleeping area. Each member of the household should know the home fire escape plan and practice it twice a year. Guests should be aware of the escape plan and the location of any fire extinguishers in case there is an emergency.

Copyright 2012 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.