Frequency of house fires increases over the Holidays


Summer has officially come to an end and the winter holidays are quickly approaching. Happily, the holidays entail gift giving, eggnog and time spent with family and friends but unfortunately in the insurance world this also means that fire frequencies increase.

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 20% of home decoration fires. This can happen when a decoration is left on or too close to a stove or other cooking equipment. – NFPA

Firefighters respond to roughly 200 Christmas tree fires per year according to the National Fire Research Laboratory at NIST.

Dry Christmas trees can pose a serious fire risk. The tree and leaves contain highly flammable oils that can spontaneously combust. Other factors include wood burning stoves, candles, and circuits in low-cost Christmas lights.

Christmas lights cause 770 house fires every year, National Fire Protection Association reports.

Minimize the chances of a Christmas tree- related fire with the following tips:

  1. Pick a fresh-looking tree.
  2. Make sure the tree stays watered.
  3. Keep the tree away from heat.
  4. Shake the tree.
  5. Check the tree’s lights.
  6. Turn off your tree’s lights.
  7. Use LED lights. This is because, unlike conventional types of lights, LEDs produce minimal amounts of heat which means they are unlikely to overheat or set on fire.
  8. Get rid of your tree soon after the holidays.
  9. You should also place the tree away from stairs, where fire can quickly travel to bedrooms.
  10. Avoid placing the tree near heat sources, such as wood stoves or fireplace. Being close to radiators and heat vents can dry out a tree more quickly.
  11. Do not use candles near the tree.
  12. Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.

While Christmas trees are a large factor that contributes to seasonal fires over the holiday season, cooking and grease fires play a significant role. Grease and fat fires are a leading cause of home fires in Canada, so be extra careful when cooking with grease.

Here’s what to do if grease in a pan or pot catches fire.

  1. Smother the flames by covering the pan with a lid. Do not remove the lid until the pan is completely cooled.
  2. Turn off the heat immediately.
  3. Use baking soda (flour can be explosive) on shallow grease fires.
  4. Never turn on the overhead fan, as this could spread the fire.
  5. Never throw water on a grease fire.

Candles, wood stoves, and fireplaces are also a major cause of home fires especially during the winter and Christmas holidays.

Follow these simple guidelines and precautions when using candles and your fireplace:


  1. Do not remove fireplace embers or ash. Or if you do, place them in a metal container with a lid and cover them with water. Do not place them in a plastic or paper bag or other container that is not fire-resistant. Do not dispose of them indoors or close to your home, your neighbours or any other structure.
  2. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrapping paper ignites suddenly and burns intensely.
  3. Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat.
  4. Don’t hang Christmas stockings from the mantel when the fireplace is in use.
  5. Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
  6. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  7. Use only seasoned and dried wood.
  8. Never leave the fire unattended or let it smoulder.


  1. Extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep. Keep lit candles away from items that can catch fire.
  2. Place candles in sturdy, burn-resistant containers that won’t tip over and are big enough to collect dripping wax.
  3. Don’t place lit candles near windows, where blinds or curtains may be too close or blow over them.
  4. Never let candles burn out completely. Extinguish them when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material.
  5. Don’t use candles in high traffic areas where children or pets could knock them over.
  6. Never leave children or pets alone in a room with lit candles.

Last but not least, make sure you have working smoke detectors. Since family and friends will be spending more time at your home, it’s a great way to test and check your smoke detectors. They should be replaced if they are over 10 years old. Take note, you need working smoke detectors on every level/floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas. – it’s a building code/bylaw requirement to have working smoke detectors per floor. Always test your detectors to confirm they are in good working order and so they will alert you and your family in the case a fire occurs.

Stay safe this holiday season and use these efficient and simple guidelines to help prevent and keep you and your family safe from a potential holiday fire.