Winter holiday fire facts

Christmas trees
  • Between 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half (45%) of home Christmas tree fires.
  • More than one-fifth (22%) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
  • Fifteen percent of Christmas tree fires were intentional. 
  • Roughly three-quarters of Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.
  • More than two of every five (42%) 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, 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 770 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2014-2018. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian fire deaths, 30 civilian fire injuries and $11 million in direct property damage.
  • Eight 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.
  • Twenty-two percent of the decoration fires started in the kitchen. Sixteen percent started in the living room, family room or den. From January to November, one-quarter (24%) of home decoration fires started the kitchen 14% in the living room and 4% in the dining room. In December, 23% of home decoration fires started in the living room, 12% in the kitchen, and 11% in the dining room. 
  • One-fifth (21%) of the home decoration fires occurred in December.  
Candles
  • On average, 21 home candle fires were reported each day between 2014-2018.
  • 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. From January through November, 4% of home candle fires started with decorations. This jumped to 12% in December.
  • Christmas is the peak day for candle fires with almost three times the daily average.     

     

Holiday cooking
  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day, the day before Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve.

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

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 Applied Research