Are There Hidden Holiday Fire Hazards In Your Home? We Asked a Retired Fire Marshal

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By now, the Christmas trees are up and stockings have been hung by the chimney with care -- but are there potential fire hazards hiding in your home this holiday season?

Well, we asked retired fire marshal and safety expert from Nassau County, New York, Vincent McManus -- and here’s what he told us.

"Unfortunately, it’s the time of year when fires go up," Vincent says.

But luckily, the safety expert provided a few tips to help keep you and your family safe!


Everyone loves the coziness and aroma of candles around the holidays, but don’t mess around with them!

Vincent suggests putting a layer between an uncovered candle and a surface that could potentially burn.

"Put something down like tin foil," Vincent says of catching the wax. "Something non-combustible."

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And that's not all.

Don’t put any candles near drapery or other furnishings. In fact, the retired fire marshal advises leaving a 3-foot "ring of safety" (a.k.a. space) around lit candles.


They're beautiful and festive, but they need to be babysat!

For starters, don’t put your tree anywhere near where it’s going to block your path to get out in the case of an emergency.

Plus, don’t place your tree next to anything that gets hot, like near a radiator or a fireplace (it’s not worth the beautiful photo!).

Quite simply, don’t let your tree dry out!

"A dry Christmas tree will burn in 30 seconds," Vincent warns. "It’s devastating."

"When these needles start falling off, you’re getting in a dangerous situation," he continues. "Keep it watered."


No one likes dealing with last year’s tangled lights, but do yourself and your family a favor by inspecting yours before putting them on this year’s tree.

What should you look for? According to Vincent, frayed and exposed wires are potential shock hazards and broken bulbs are potential fire hazards. So if you spot either, don’t use them!

Also, don’t plug more than three strands of lights together, the retired fire marshal says. Resist the temptation!

Lastly, don’t be frugal with your lights.

"When it comes to electrical appliances," Vincent explains, "get them from a reputable place."

And when you’re selecting your lights, look for this UL label on the box, which means they’ve been tested for the use that they’re designed for:

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Vincent didn’t want to break this to us, but it’s the sad truth.

"The leading cause of holiday fires is cooking," he says.

And while the age-old adage says baking soda could help extinguish a kitchen grease fire, the safety expert would rather you go a different route.

"I’m not a big fan of throwing things at or in a fire," Vincent says. "So something better [you] can do is have a home fire extinguisher."

Look for an ABC rating on your extinguisher, like so:

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"It means that it’s okay for your home," Vincent explains.

And don’t wait for an emergency to learn how to use one! Go to your local fire station and ask them to teach you how to use one, the retired fire marshal suggests.


Fire Marshal Vincent strongly suggests getting your chimney cleaned by a licensed professional. (There are some projects you just can’t DIY!)

And if you’re tempted to throw boxes or wrapping paper into your fire to get rid of the post-Christmas morning mess, DON’T!


"Only burn wood or fire logs in that fireplace," Vincent warns.

"Throwing in a box [or] wrapping paper could cause a flash fire [and] it could injure people," he continues.

Duly noted!

Learn more about Vincent's candle and tree tips in the video above and his lights and fireplace tips in the video below!

Do Your Christmas Lights Have This Important Label on Them?

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