Fire safety for holidays and special occasions

Christmas trees

  • If buying a real Christmas tree, make sure it’s fresh—a freshly cut tree is less of a fire hazard.
  • You can test for freshness by tapping the butt of the tree on the ground; if fresh, very few needles should fall off.
  • Place the tree in a stand that will hold two to three litres of water and top it up daily.
  • Do not set your tree up near a heat source such as a radiator, television, fireplace, heating duct or sunny window. Do not block doors or windows.
  • Remove the tree within 10 to 14 days. After that amount of time in a heated building, even the freshest tree can start to dry out. Watch for needles to start falling off—then it is time to discard the tree.

Tree lights and decorations

  • Use lights that are Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved.
  • Check for and discard frayed, broken and exposed wires.
  • Replace any damaged or burnt-out lights with energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Use the proper lights for the environment. Indoor light strings/sets should not be used outdoors because they lack weatherproof connections. Some outdoor light strings/sets burn too hot indoors.
  • Use caution with decorations—use flame-retardant, non-combustible, non-conductive decorations.
  • Never use lighted candles on the tree.
  • Remember turn off all tree or display lights before leaving the house or going to bed.


  • Place candles away from anything that could catch fire.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended.
  • Burn candles only when a responsible adult is overseeing the flame.
  • Put candles in sturdy holders on a stable surface, well away from drafts, curtains, children and pets.
  • Snuff them out before leaving the room or going to sleep.


  • Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate too much heat.
  • Don’t hang Christmas stockings from the mantel when the fireplace is in use.
  • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks
  • Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Never leave the fire unattended or let it smoulder.
  • Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.
  • Don’t use Christmas trees for firewood.

Heating appliances

  • During the holiday season, furniture often gets rearranged. Make sure heating appliances have enough space—keep portable heaters at least one metre from anything that can burn.
  • Don’t let combustible material get close to these sources of ignition.
  • Don’t use your heaters to dry shoes or clothes.
  • Remember to have your furnace inspected each year by a licensed technician.
  • Your chimney should also be cleaned and inspected annually to prevent problems that may cause a build-up of carbon monoxide.

Electrical considerations

  • There is often a tendency to overload wall outlets during the holiday season. This is an unsafe practice and should be avoided even for short durations.
  • Inspect all cords before using. Make sure they are Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified. Look for loose connections or frayed or exposed wire. Discard any defective cords. Read the labels and manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper use.
  • Insert plugs fully into outlets. Poor contact may cause overheating or shock.
  • To avoid possible overheating, do not coil or bunch an extension cord which is in use and do not run it under carpets or rugs.


  • When doing your holiday cooking, never leave the kitchen unattended.
  • Prevent a fire from occurring; turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it is only for a few minutes.
  • Wear tight-fitting or rolled-up sleeves when cooking and keep all combustible materials a safe distance from the stove.
  • Grease and fat fires are a leading cause of home fires in Canada, so be extra careful when doing this kind of cooking. Here’s what to do if grease in a pot or pan catches fire:
    • Smother the flames by covering the pan with a lid
    • Turn off the heat immediately
    • Use baking soda (flour can be explosive) on shallow grease fires
    • Never turn on the overhead fan, as this could spread the fire
    • Never throw water on a grease fire

Gift suggestions

  • Smoke alarm
  • Carbon monoxide alarm
  • Multi-purpose (ABC) portable fire extinguisher
  • Escape ladders

Last but not least; check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and review your escape route with your family.

For more information

Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs’ holiday fire safety tips