Winter holiday fire facts

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, 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 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.  
Candles
  • 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. 

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