December 20, 2019

State fire marshal reminds Missourians to think of fire safety throughout the holidays

Holiday decorations, candles, Christmas trees and cooking all increase risk of residential fires

State Fire Marshal Tim Bean is encouraging Missourians to think of fire safety throughout the holidays, whether they’re gathering with friends or celebrating with family members at home. Across the U.S. from 2013 to 2017, fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires started by Christmas trees each year. Annually, the fires resulted in an average of three deaths and 15 injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

“Christmas trees, candles and holiday decorations help get us into the holiday spirit, but they can also create tremendous fire hazards if not handled with care and caution,” State Fire Marshal Bean said. “Increased cooking and celebrations also raise the risk of fires and the need to remind everyone about fire safety, including making sure guests know two ways out of each room in a home.”

Remember these fire safety tips concerning Christmas trees:

  • Understand that natural Christmas trees always involve some fire risk. To minimize the risk, choose a fresh tree (needles should be green and springy to the touch) and keep it watered at all times.
  • Cut one to two inches off the bottom of the trunk before placing the tree in a stand. A fresh cut allows the tree to absorb more water.
  • Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Make sure the tree does not block an exit.
  • Decorate with children in mind. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level and keep lights out of reach. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.
  • Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative lighting displays unattended. Turn lights off when leaving the home or going to bed. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not place an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Don’t keep the tree up for too long, allowing it to dry out.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood, or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.


Remember these fire safety tips concerning candles:

  • Avoid using real candles as part of decorations and remember to always exercise basic safety when using candles throughout the home.
  • Always used candleholders specifically designed for candle use. The candleholder should be heat resistant, sturdy and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax.
  • Only place the candleholder on a stable, heat resistant surface.
  • Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.

Remember smoke alarms save lives no matter the season:

  • Put working smoke alarms on every level of your home, especially inside and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your fire escape plan.
  • Practice your home fire escape plan regularly.

Installing smoke alarms reduces the chance of dying in a fire by more than one-half.

The American Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm program not only offers residents smoke alarms at no cost, the alarms will be installed by experts, who will also educate families on how to best escape their homes during a fire.

To participate in the Sound the Alarm program, Missouri residents can contact their local Red Cross chapter or register online at They will then be contacted to schedule an installation. Installations and home visits are provided free of charge.



For more information, call 573-751-5432 or e-mail