Winter holiday fire facts

Christmas trees
  • Between 2015-2019 , 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, 12 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of home Christmas tree fires. Nearly one in five Christmas tree fires were stared by decorative lights.
  • In nearly one-fifth of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
  • One in five Christmas tree fires were intentional. These fires were more common in January.
  • Roughly three-quarters of Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.
  • Almost two of every five 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 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2015-2019. These fires caused an annual average of one civilian fire death, 26 civilian fire injuries and $13 million in direct property damage.
  • One in five home decoration fires occurred in December.
  • The decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment in more than two of every five incidents.
  • Year-round, more than one-third of home decoration fires were started by candles. Cooking started 19 percent of decoration fires, 12 percent involved electrical distribution and lighting equipment, heating equipment was involved in 11 percent, 8 percent were intentionally set, and smoking materials started 7 percent.
  • Candles caused 45 percent of home decoration fires in December.
Candles
  • Between 2015-2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,400 home fires that were started by candles. These fires caused an average of 90 civilian deaths, 670 civilian injuries and $291 million in direct property damage.

  • On average, 20 home candle fires were reported each day between 2015-2019.

  • Three of every five 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 and January with 11 percent of candle fires in each of these months.

  • Christmas is the peak day for candle fires with roughly 2.5 times the daily average.     

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. 

Source: NFPA's Applied Research