Trees, Lights, Decorations, Fireplaces: Holiday Safety Tips from New Canaan’s Fire Marshal


Don’t burn wrapping papers or evergreens in the fireplace this holiday season—a flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely—and ensure you are safely disposing of ashes.

Those are two of this year’s Holiday Safety Tips from Fire Marshal Fred Baker, and they’re timely—a New Canaan homeowner, just before noon on Thanksgiving Day, started a fire inside their home after fireplace ashes ignited in a garbage can.

Here are more tips from Baker, broken up into areas that include trees, lights, decorations and fireplaces.


  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the UL label and “Fire Resistant.”
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood to allow for better water absorption.
  • Be sure to keep the stand filled with water because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly – especially when first set up. When large quantities of needles begin dropping it is time to remove the tree for safety.


  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
  • Check all tree lights-even if you’ve just purchased them-before hanging them on your tree. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house.


  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked over.


  • Before lighting a fire in the fireplace, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is fully open.
  • Always use a screen or other approved device to prevent flying embers.
  • Do not burn wrapping papers or evergreens in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Ashes can stay hot for several days. If absolutely necessary, place ashes in a metal container with a tight sealing lid and place on noncombustible surface.

For questions regarding fire safety please call the New Canaan Fire Marshal’s Office at 594 – 3030.

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