Winter Holiday Fire Awareness & Preparedness

by | Dec 17, 2019 | Auto & Home

Without a doubt, the winter holiday season is traditionally the most festive time of year, filled with colorful decorations and fun family gatherings! The last thing anyone wants to think about is fire preparedness.

Did you know? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), statistics show that 30% of all home fires and 38% of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January, and February. These winter fires result from a variety of sources.

Reports from the United States Fire Administration (USFA) indicate fires caused by cooking, heating, and open flame all increase during the winter holiday period substantially increase, and are more severe than the average fire, during the year across all loss measures. Holiday decoration and Christmas tree fires, in particular, are substantially more damaging than other fires. These fires result in twice the injuries and five times the fatalities per fire as the average winter holiday home fire.

In 2018, On average in 2018, a fire department responded to a fire every 24 seconds in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. A structure fire occurred every 63 seconds, a home fire occurred every 87 seconds, and an outside property fire occurred every 52 seconds. The statistics for 2019 are even higher (those numbers to be published soon.)

Here are some interesting facts to note about holiday fires:

Christmas Trees

  • Between 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
  • On average, one of every 52 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires.
  • In one-quarter (25%) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
  • One-fifth (21%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
  • Roughly three-quarters of Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.
  • Two of every five (39%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room.

A live Christmas tree burn conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
shows just how quickly a dried out Christmas tree fire burns…

Note the “flashover” occurs in less than one minute, compared to a well-watered tree, which burns at a much slower rate.


Holiday Decorations

  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 780 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2013-2017. These fires caused an annual average of three civilian fire deaths, 34 civilian fire injuries and $12 million in direct property damage.
  • Nine percent of decoration fires were intentional.
  • The decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment in more than two of every five (44%) fires.
  • One-fifth (21%) of the decoration fires started in the kitchen. Sixteen percent started in the living room, family room or den.
  • One-fifth (20%) of the home decoration fires occurred in December.


  • On average, 22 home candle fires were reported each day between 2013-2017.
  • Three of every five (60%) candle fires started when something that could burn, such as furniture, mattresses or bedding, curtains, or decorations, was too close to the candle.
  • Candle fires peak in December. January ranked second. Eighteen percent of December candle fires started in the living room and 8% started in the dining room compared to 14% and 3% for those areas during the rest of the year.
  • The two peak days for candle fires were Christmas and Christmas Eve.

Holiday Cooking

  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
  • Cooking equipment was involved in one of every five (19%) of home decoration fires. This can happen when a decoration is left on or too close to a stove or other cooking equipment.


  • Ten percent of fireworks fires occur during the period from December 30 through January 3, with the peak on New Year’s Day.

For a quick reference, we have provided 2 PDFs for you to download. Simply click on the links and keep them on hand for some helpful safety tips and information.

The holiday season is a joyous time of year, so let’s keep it that way by being safe!

From all of us at United Agencies, wishing you Happy Holidays! Don’t hesitate to Contact Us with any questions you might have about holiday fire safety.

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