Safety precautions when decorating for holidays

Christmas awaits the family of Saber Patrus, MD and Fatin Patrus at their Valencia home, decorated for the 36th Holiday Home Tour which has raised nearly $1 million for women’s services, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation. Susan Springer/The Signal

By Raychel Stewart

For The Signal

Part of getting into the holiday spirit is being able to decorate your house, inside and out. Hanging Christmas lights, tinsel and stockings over the fireplace is a great way to kick off the holiday season.

Nearly 90% of families decorate their homes for the holidays, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International. If done right, decorations can add a magical touch to your porch and living room, but if not, it can be the beginning of a disaster.

Here are some tips to ensure decorating is being done in a safe manner and extra precautions are being taken:

When stringing holiday lights along the trim of your house, the first step is to ensure you have an adequate number of outlets, and the lights have been tested for safety. Look for certification marks that read “UT” “ETL” and “CSA” on lights.

It’s important to know the maximum amount of light that can be strung together. If too many lights are connected to a single outlet, it can be overwhelming and can lead to an electrical fire.

Use caution when hanging lights at a great height. Secure your ladder or, if possible, have another person present to help secure the ladder. Be sure to not hang decorations too close to an outside power line. Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs.

When able, use LED lights. These bulbs run at a cooler temperature than regular bulbs and are more energy-efficient.

There are an estimated average of 780 house fires per year that begin from holiday decorations, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When decorating inside, pick out a live and fresh Christmas tree that will be safest to decorate and will last longer. Be sure to place Christmas trees at least 3 feet away from heaters and fireplaces.

Christmas trees should be watered on a daily basis to prevent them from drying out. If you notice your tree’s needles are withered and brittle, remove decorations as soon as possible and remove the tree from your home.

Candles can be a nice touch to holiday decorations, but are also the cause of an average of 22 house fires per year, according to NFPA. Faux candles can give the same gentle effect of a candle with a flame, and the chances of starting a candle fire are eliminated.

Fireplaces are a great focal point for holiday decorating and can be admired with proper precautions. Only decorate fireplaces with flame-retardant decorations and keep gift boxes or wrapped packages away when a fire is lit.

Do not dispose of wrapping paper, boxes or garbage in the fireplace. Holiday trash should be kept away from fireplaces and put into the correct garbage collection bin.

Once your decorating is complete, the last step is to ensure everything is shut off and flames on candles or in fireplaces are put out before going to bed or leaving the house.

For more holiday decorating and Christmas tree safety tips, visit the Los Angeles County Fire Department webpage at 

Metro Creative contributed to this report.

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