Although the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, the season also brings increased potential fire dangers to the home and its inhabitants, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“Fires are among the most common home-related dangers to be aware of during the holidays,” said Joyce Cavanagh, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension family and community health specialist, College Station.                                               

Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day have been identified by the National Fire Protection Association as the three days of the year during which most candle fires occur.

“In addition to candle fires, electrical fires and Christmas tree fires are also possible,” Cavanagh said. “And Christmas tree fires, in particular, have the potential to do serious damage to the home or cause injury to its occupants.”

She said some tips to help avoid candle and electrical fires are:

Keep candles at least 1 foot away from flammable items or surfaces.

Do not put candles directly on surfaces. Use a sturdy candle holder with a drip plate for wax.

Blow out candles when you leave the home or go to bed and avoid using candles in the bedroom or other areas where people may fall asleep.

Replace candles before they burn all the way down or before the flame gets too close to the holder or container.

Keep any lit candles in sight and away from areas where they may be knocked over.

In the event of a power outage, use flashlights or other battery-powered lighting instead of candles.

Use electric lights tested by an independent testing laboratory and place them only where appropriate.

Cavanagh’s tips for avoiding Christmas tree fires include:  

If using a real tree, select one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched, and add water two to three times daily to the tree-stand reservoir.

Locate the Christmas tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source and make sure it isn’t blocking a door or exit.

If purchasing an artificial tree, choose one labeled “fire-resistant.”

Replace old or worn-out Christmas tree lights and turn lights off when leaving home or going to bed.

Never use lit candles as Christmas tree decorations.

“Being vigilant of possible fire hazards around the house can help ensure a safer and happier holiday season,” Cavanagh said.