As you make your list and check it twice, you probably aren’t hoping for fire damage cleanup services this holiday season. No one wants to experience a home fire at any time of year but if there’s a “worst” time, this would be it!

Each year we hear heartbreaking stories of home fires during the holiday season. And yes, this is one of the most active times of year for both fire departments and those of us who perform fire damage cleanup services. The National Fire Protection Agency records, on average, over 200 home fires started by Christmas trees and 860 fires started exclusively by other holiday decorations each year. Who knew holiday decorations could be so dangerous?

As you get your home ready for the jolliest time of year, keep these four rules in mind to reduce your risk of a fire:

  1. Inspect your lights before using them. Throw away any holiday lights with frayed or pinched wiring.
  2. Water your Christmas tree every day. A dry tree provides excellent kindling and will go up in flames quickly.
  3. Rather than using real candles with an open flame, consider using battery-powered flameless candles. They look basically identical to real candles, but without the fire risk.
  4. If you decide to use real candles, make sure you place them in a stable candleholder. Place them where they won’t be knocked over easily, away from drafts, and nowhere near curtains or other materials that could come into contact with the flames. Keep an eye on children and pets, because they don’t understand fire risk and might do unpredictable things.
  5. Consider switching from traditional to LED holiday lights. They are cool to the touch and less likely to ignite your tree or anything else they come into contact with.

And of course, keep a fire extinguisher handy (you always should anyway) and turn off all lights and decorations before going to bed at night. If you stay vigilant, you can safely enjoy your holiday decorations while reducing the risk of fire, or at least ensuring that you can respond quickly if something does happen.