Winter holiday fires by the numbers

Christmas trees
  • Between 2012-2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 170 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 4 deaths, 15 injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage annually.
  • On average, one of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 139 total reported home fires.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43% of home Christmas tree fires.
  • In one-quarter (27%) of the Christmas tree fires and in 80% of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
  • More than one-fifth (22%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional. 
  • Forty-two percent of reported home Christmas tree fires occurred in December and 33% were reported in January. 
  • Two of every five (40%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.

Source: NFPA's "Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees" report

 


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, with flashover occurring in less than one minute, as 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 800 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2012-2016. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian fire deaths, 34 civilian fire injuries and $11 million in direct property damage.
  • Ten percent of decoration fires were intentional.
  • The decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment in two of every five (42%) fires.
  • More than one-fifth (21%) of the decoration fires started in the kitchen. Fifteen percent started in the living room, family room or den.
  • One-fifth (19%) of the home decoration fires occurred in December. 

Source: NFPA's "Home Structure Fires Involving Decorations" report

Candles
  • On average, 23 home candle fires were reported each day between 2012-2016.
  • More than half (56%) of the December home decoration fires were started by candles, compared to one-third (31%) in January to November.

  • The top three days for home candle fires were Christmas, New Year’s Day, and New Year's Eve.

Source: NFPA's "Home Structure Fires Involving Decorations" report
Holiday cooking
  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

  • Cooking equipment was involved in 20% of home decoration fires. This can happen when a decoration is left on or too close to a stove or other cooking equipment.

Source: NFPA's "Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment" report

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

Source: NFPA's "Fireworks" report