Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service: decorate your home safely this Christmas Image: Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Fire hazards from putting up Christmas decorations

Now is the time of year when many of us are getting the cardboard boxes full of tinsel, lights and baubles out of storage. Christmas is a special time for celebration and should not end in tragedy because of the extra hazards that may be present at this time of year.

All types of decorations should be purchased from a reputable retailer so that you can be confident that they conform to the relevant safety standards.

The Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has advice on how to stay safe this Christmas:

Fairy Lights

  • Any lights you use outdoors must be labeled as suitable for use outside
  • Check all your lights’ fuses are the right type (see the box for the maximum size of fuse you should use)
  • Always unplug your lights before replacing any bulbs. Don’t leave fairy lights on when you go out or when you go to sleep
  • Don’t let the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily, like paper
  • Don’t overload your electrical sockets and try to avoid using extension leads or adaptors


  • Decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard burn easily so don’t attach them to lights or heaters
  • Don’t put decorations immediately above or around the fireplace and keep them away from candles.
  • Always fix tinsel, bunting and other similar lengths of decorations firmly to your walls and ceilings so they don’t fall down in the path of open flames, like candles


  • Always put candles in a heat-resistance holder or on a heat-resistant surface. Be especially careful with night lights and tea lights, which get hot enough to melt plastic and burn wood
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets. Children may play with them out of curiosity and pets can knock them over
  • Keep candles away from decorations and your Christmas tree as well as curtains and other combustible materials such as paper, cardboard and fabric covered furniture
  • Don’t move candles once they are lit – you might drop them or bring them into contact with combustible materials
  • Never leave candles burning when you are out of the room and always make sure you snuff out the candle fully when you are finished with it
The fire risk here is the stocking in front of the fireplace. Image:Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Christmas Trees

  • Fresh trees are less likely to catch fire, so look for a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don’t break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn’t be shedding its needles readily. You can test a tree by bouncing it on the ground. If many of the needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
  • Always place your tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, heat vents or lights, and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid it drying out and becoming dangerous.
  • Don’t put your tree up in a position that will compromise your escape route

Regularly test your fire alarm

Christmas tree fires can grow and spread very quickly. It is important that you have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home and that you shut doors at night time and when you are out to slow the spread of smoke and fire. If you are using lights powered by batteries do not use the batteries from your smoke alarm.

Now is a good time to make sure that you have plenty of spare batteries for Christmas. This will avoid the temptation on Christmas day to take batteries from a smoke alarm to power a new toy.


Click here for more information on how to be fire safe at home.

The fire risks here are the extension cable wrapped around the presents, the overloaded extension socket and the candle in front of the TV Image: Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service