While the two most common days for home fires are Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, fire officials encourage everyone to make safety a top priority during the entire holiday season. This item offers fire prevention and safety tips for you, your family and guests.

The primary cause of holiday house fires is cooking, followed by heating. The increased use of candles over Christmas and on New Year’s Eve increases the risk of fire even further.

Here are some helpful tips to stay safe this holiday season:

  1. Turn all lights off. When using any decorative lights in or around the house or Christmas tree, be sure they are turned off when no one is in the room. If you are using older strings of lights, consider switching to newer LED lights. LED lights are not only more energy-efficient, they also don’t get as hot as older lights can.
  2. Install sufficient smoke alarms and make sure they are working. Every level of the home should have a working smoke detector. Ideally, there should be one in each common room and bedroom. At a minimum, be sure they are placed strategically so occupants can hear them regardless of where they may be in the house. Alarms older than 10 years should be replaced.
  3. Water fresh trees every day. A fresh Christmas tree should be watered daily to ensure it does not dry out and become a fire hazard. Both artificial and fresh trees should be kept away from candles, heaters and fireplaces.
  4. Use carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, so it is considered a silent killer. Carbon monoxide detectors older than six years should be replaced.
  5. Make a fire escape plan. Your plan should include two separate exit options. Designate an area outside of the home, a safe distance away, where occupants should meet. In case of fire, remember to stay outside and call 911 immediately from a neighbor’s phone or a cell phone. Do not go back into the house for any reason.
  6. Don’t leave candles unattended. Before leaving a room or going to sleep, make sure all candles have been blown out. Maintain a one-foot clear area around lit candles, and make sure they are placed on flat and steady surfaces.
  7. Use extension cords with care. Don’t overload extension cords or power strips. Avoid putting cords under rugs to lower the risk of fire.
  8. Use space heaters cautiously. Never leave a space heater running when the room is not occupied. Heaters should be at least 3 feet from any item or wall. Do not use old space heaters that are not UL approved.
  9. Don’t leave burners unattended. Watch all cooking food closely. When baking, set a timer and keep it within reach. If a pan does catch fire, put a lid on it to smother the fire and turn the heat off immediately.
  10. Be responsible when drinking. Alcohol plays a part in many fatal fires, so watch out for guests or hosts around open flames when drinking is a part of the celebration. Alcohol and fire don’t mix.
  11. Smoke outdoors. Make sure all guests know to smoke outdoors and provide ash trays so they do not toss cigarette butts in areas where they could cause fires.
  12. Keep lighters and matches safe. If children will be present, make sure lighters and matches are kept out of their reach.