Home fire safety
Advice and guidance for staying safe at home this festive season.
Over the festive and New Year period we decorate our homes, host family gatherings and catch up with friends. But year on year, we also see an increase in deaths and injuries resulting from fires in the home.
While decorations and Christmas trees are potential fire hazards, more fires start in the kitchen than any other room in the house.
After a night out at a Christmas party or meeting up for drinks with friends, don't try to cook when you get home. Buy food on the way home instead. If you do want to make something when you get home, then it’s best to prepare cold food. A sandwich could save your life!
If you’re tired, have been drinking, or taking drugs, you will be less alert to the signs of fire. You are more likely to fall asleep and you are less likely to wake up if a fire does start. They can also heighten feelings of disorientation, making an escape more difficult. More so if you don’t have working smoke and heat alarms in your home.
Cooking is the biggest cause of house fires in Scotland. Considering how elaborate some Christmas meals can be, even a short distraction can easily cause a fire to start.
- Never leave cooking unattended, especially when using stovetops, ovens, or grills.
- Stay attentive to your cooking and avoid holiday distractions.
- Keep decorations and other fire risks away from open flames or heat sources.
For more in-depth information read our kitchen safety advice.
Real Christmas Trees
Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a living tree in a home. As time goes by, fresh Christmas trees gradually lose moisture, which increases their flammability. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
Selecting a real tree for Christmas
- When buying a tree, pay special attention to the needles and trunk.
- Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. The needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.
- The trunk should be sticky to the touch. You can spot an old tree by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and has probably dried out. This is a potential fire hazard.
- Always buy your tree from a reputable retailer to ensure freshness and quality.
Caring for your tree
- Heat and lack of water will dry out the tree, which will more easily be ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
- Keep your tree away from heat sources. These include fireplaces, heat vents, candles and cigarettes.
- As trees dry out over time, it's best to not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
- Keeping the tree stand filled with water will stop it from drying out quickly.
Disposing of your tree
- The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling centre or having it taken away by a community pickup service.
- Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
- When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
Candles and tea-lights help decorate a home or give the place a more festive feel. However, candles do pose a significant fire risk.
Around the holidays, there are usually a lot more objects in our homes that can catch fire.
- Keep candles away from Christmas trees, wrapped presents, decorations, and other flammable objects.
- Never leave a candle unattended.
- Consider using flameless LED candles as a safer alternative to traditional candles.
For more in-depth information read our candle safety advice.
Every year SFRS attends domestic house fires that are caused by fairy lights. While many are used on Christmas trees, they are also being wrapped around stair railings and draped across walls. Wherever you are using them, remember to use them safely.
- Always buy from a reputable supplier.
- Check fairy lights are in good working order and replace any bulbs that have blown.
- Unplug fairy lights and other electrical decorations when you leave the house or go to bed.
- Bulbs can get very hot. Don’t let them touch materials that can scorch or burn easily such as paper or fabrics.
- Make sure the fuse in the plug is the correct rating.
- Use a multi-socket adaptor with a fuse and surge protection when plugging multiple appliances into an electrical socket.
So when you’re decking the halls make sure you follow our simple advice and stay safe.
- Light tissue paper or cardboard decorations can burn easily.
- Don’t attach decorations to lights, heaters or place near candles.
- Don’t put decorations immediately above or around the fireplace.