Gloucester County fire marshal advises holiday safety precautions

“While decorating, we can’t forget to take precautions to stay safe,” Director Robert M. Damminger said.

As the holidays near, Gloucester County Board of Commissioners and County Fire Marshal would like to advise residents of safety precautions while decorating.

“While decorating, we can’t forget to take precautions to stay safe,” Director Robert M. Damminger said. “Carefully decorating your home can help make your holidays safer.”

Between 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 770 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees.

Some helpful tips include:

  • Use holiday decorations made with flame‐retardant or non‐combustible materials. 
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings and replace damaged items before plugging lights in.  
  • Do not overload extension cords. 
  • Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.  
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.  
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and make sure any lit candles in the room are placed away from tree branches.  
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit. 
  • Cut at least one inch off the bottom of the tree trunk before placing it in a stand.
  • Live trees can “drink” one gallon of water daily.
  • Check water at least twice daily. 
  • Make sure the tree is at least six feet away from any heat source. 
  • Take the tree down when it becomes dry.  
  • Recycle it, use it as a fish shelter in a farm pond or put it out with the trash.  
  • Do not burn a tree in the fireplace. Heat may explode the wood and set the room on fire.

“These are small tips that can save your home from destruction during the holidays,” Commissioner Dan Christy, liaison to the Office of the Fire Marshal said. “No one thinks they will experience a fire, but sadly so many do over the holidays. Be sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in good working order and review your home escape plan with family and guests.”

It’s also important to keep safety in mind while decorating outside:

  • Be sure to use only lights rated for outdoor use.
  • Consider replacing older outdoor lights with newer LED lights that are ‘greener’ and cooler in temperature.
  • Securely anchor outdoor lights and decorations against the wind and storms with insulated holders or hooks.
  • Use electrical connection protectors to keep water out.
  • All outdoor electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.
  • Don’t overload circuits. 15-amp circuits support 1,800 watts and 20-amp circuits support 2,400 watts.
  • Do not drive nails, staples or tacks through wiring insulation; this can cause a fire.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life.

For more information or questions, please contact the Gloucester County Office of the Fire Marshal at (856) 307-7912 or visit www.gloucestercountynj.gov.