Can My Christmas Lights Start a Fire?

Although Christmas, by far, is considered the most wonderful time of the year, it can still be the riskiest time of the year as well when it comes to holiday lights. The United States National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) has estimated in previous years that the number one cause of residential fires is electrical issues, with around 45,000 each year.

NFPA has estimated that about one-half of the residential fires are caused by either faulty lighting equipment or failure to distribute electricity properly.

In fact, between the years 2015 and 2019, fire departments within the U.S. saw an average of 160 fires in homes per year, which all began with the homeowners’ Christmas tree lights. In those same years, the United States fire departments saw an average of 790 fires in homes per year, which all began with Christmas light decorations that did not include Christmas trees.

On average, fire departments recorded nine deaths per year, which were caused by these fires.

What Causes Christmas Light Fires?

What Causes Christmas Light Fires?

There are two main causes of Christmas light fires: (1) defective electrical wires and (2) overloaded electrical outlets. Christmas lights alone, meaning solely the heat from the lights, will not cause a fire; the lights do not get hot enough. However, a fire will likely start if you overload your electrical outlets or the lights’ wiring is defective. 

If a fire does start due to defective wiring, you may want to seek legal advice for a product liability claim. Alternatively, if a property owner’s negligence contributed to the fire, you may have a valid premises liability claim for damages. 

How Can You Prevent Christmas Light Fires?

Fires caused by Christmas lights are very easy to prevent by reducing the risk of a fire in the following ways:

  • Proper Lights: There are two types of Christmas lights: outdoor and indoor. Make sure you use the lights for their intended purpose (i.e., use the outdoor lights outside, and use the indoor lights for the inside of your house).
  • Inspection: Carefully inspect your lights prior to hanging them up. If there appear to be any broken lights, stray wires, frayed cords, etc., do not hang those lights. Instead, replace them with some new ones or replace the broken light bulb.
  • No Windows or Doors: If you are going to hang outdoor Christmas lights outside, you will want to connect them to an outdoor outlet. Do not run the wire through your windows or doors because you can cause damage to the lights.
  • Use Light Clips: Use light clips to secure your lights wherever you decide to hang them. Do NOT use screws, nails, or tacks to hang up your lights, as you can create a hazard by puncturing the wires.
  • Proper Use of Extension Cords: If you decide to use an extension cord, make sure it is safe and fairly new. Old or beaten-down extension cords can cause fire hazards. Additionally, do not overload the outlets on the extension cord.
  • No Loose Strands: Make sure to secure strands with electrical tape.
  • Turn Lights Off: Make sure to turn off the lights when you leave the house or before you go to bed at night.
  • Appropriate Number of Strands: There is a limit to how many strands of lights you can hook together. Check the instructions for the lights to see what that number is.
  • Proper Storage: Store your lights in sealed containers when they are not in use to keep out water, bugs, rodents, and other conditions that may affect the lights’ safety and function.

For more information, the State of Texas Fire Marshall has some helpful tips and safety precautions for homeowners. You can also review some short videos regarding fire safety tips for the holidays, including how to maintain your Christmas tree to prevent fires.

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