The holidays are a time of joy for many families, but a kitchen or electrical fire can be an unwelcome, and common, occurrence at celebrations.

Check out the tips below for safety advice from a local fire department and a Greater Houston-area holiday decorating company.

A closer look

The most common type of fire in the U.S. are kitchen fires, and this risk spikes on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, said Landon Churchill, deputy chief for the Spring Fire Department.

To make holiday cooking safer, Churchill advised:
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Use timers while cooking.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand, and learn how to use it with training provided by a local fire department.
  • If a grease fire occurs while cooking, do not use water to extinguish the flame.
Another way to keep holiday cooking safe is to avoid cooking while intoxicated, Churchill said.

“It can become tricky to remember what's [cooking or] whether you have food on the stove when there's alcohol involved, so we recommend that people don't consume alcohol when they're dealing with cooking implements,” Churchill said.

Even if a resident is able to extinguish a fire on their own, Churchill recommends calling the local fire department to inspect the space for unseen damage.

“It doesn't cost anything to have your fire ... department come out and make sure everything is extinguished,” Churchill said. “Even if you did put it out yourself.”

Zooming in

Holiday decorations are a less common cause of fires, but they can be severe when they do occur, Churchill said. According to the National Fire Protection Association’s website,

about 790 fires annually are caused by home decorating in the U.S.—excluding Christmas tree-related incidents, which accounted for an average of 150 per year from 2017-2021.

Churchill’s tips for safer home decorating include:
  • Do not overload power strips or extension cords by plugging too many items into them or leaving items plugged in for days, weeks or months.
  • Buy UL-tested lights.
  • Water live Christmas trees.
“A lot of times, people aren't used to pine trees because pine trees will still stay green and look like they might be okay even though they're very dry,” Churchill said.

Brandon Stephens, president of Christmas Decor—a Texas-based holiday decorating company with a location serving the Greater Houston-area—offered additional tips for safe holiday decorating via a Nov. 21 email, including:
  • Place decor at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fire places.
  • Do not use indoor-grade lighting outdoors.
  • Avoid using tacks or nails when hanging lights.
  • Check circuitry on decorations that have been stored away for long periods of time before use.
  • Consider using LED lights over traditional Christmas lights, as they do not run as warm.
  • Use timer mechanisms when possible to light decor only during peak viewing times.
“Though not all families have the budget for string lights on every tree and garland, a simple DIY wreath on the front door and solar-powered lights woven atop bushes or around a patio railing create the perfect pairing that is budget-friendly, eco-friendly and a neighborhood standout,” Stephens said in the email.