Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service

Christmas Fire Safety Advice

Christmas is a special time of the year for celebrations, with family and friends coming together to enjoy the festivities.  However, candles, overloaded electrics and cooking all increase the risk of fire within the home at this time of year.

Alcohol is also a contributory factor in many accidental fire deaths and injuries.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service would like to ensure the whole Community has a safe and happy festive season and asks that you consider this fire safety advice for keeping you and your family safe this Christmas and New Year:

Fire Safe this Christmas – Top Tips

  • Have a working smoke alarm fitted on all levels of your property.  A working smoke alarm will give you and your family the vital time needed to escape a fire.
  • Never leave cooking unattended and avoid cooking whilst under the influence of alcohol. Make sure cooking appliances are turned off after use.
  • The risk of accidents in the kitchen increases if you have been drinking. Alcohol may affect your judgement: don’t take risks tackling a fire; Get Out, Stay Out and Get the Fire Service Out.
  • Check your Christmas lights are in good working order and conform to the British Standard.  Look for the BS Kitemark to ensure that your lights meet the appropriate standard.
  • Never overload sockets and always turn Christmas lights off before going to bed or if you are leaving the house.  Remember one plug per socket.
  • Don’t buy fake electrical goods.  Look for the British Standard or CE mark to ensure equipment and chargers comply with UK or European Safety Standards.
  • If you are using extra heaters during the winter months, make sure they are kept away from soft furnishings and Christmas decorations.
  • Keep candles away from soft furnishings, decorations, Christmas trees and wrapping paper.  Ensure they are out of reach from pets and children.  Never leave candles unattended.
  • Make sure cigarettes are extinguished correctly and never smoke in bed, particularly if you have been drinking alcohol.  Empty ashtrays safely.
  • Make a fire escape plan and discuss it with your family. Ensure any visiting family and friends are aware of the escape plan too; tell them where you keep door keys.
  • Keep your escape routes clear; it’s easy for exits to get blocked with Christmas trees and presents.
  • Many fire deaths, where alcohol is a contributing factor, involve people who live alone. Check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas to ensure their safety at this time of year.


Keep these safety tips in mind whenever you use candles at home:

  • Always place candles in a purpose-made candle holder.
  • Always put them on a heat-resistant surface and be especially careful with night lights and tea lights, which get hot enough to melt plastic; TVs are not fire-resistant.
  • Make sure they are held firmly upright by the holder so they won’t fall over – the holder needs to be stable too so it won’t fall over either.
  • Don’t put candles near curtains, or other fabrics or furniture – and keep them out of draughts.
  • Don’t put them under shelves – make sure there’s at least one metre (three feet) between a candle and any surface above it.
  • Keep clothes and hair away from the naked flame – if there’s any chance you could forget a candle is there and lean across or brush past it, put it somewhere else.
  • Candles should always be placed out of the reach of children and away from areas that pets can get into.
  • Leave at least four inches (10 cm) between two candles.
  • Extinguish candles before moving them and don’t let anything fall into the hot wax, like matchsticks.
  • Don’t leave them burning – you should extinguish candles before you leave a room; never go to sleep with a candle still burning and never leave a burning candle or oil burner in a child’s bedroom.
  • Use a snuffer or a spoon to put them out – blowing them can send sparks and hot wax flying – and double-check that they’re completely out.

Decorative Lights

Fairy lights and Christmas tree lights don’t get used very often so you should make sure they’re in good working order before using them:

  • Check that the fuse in the plug is the right size – see the box for the maximum size of fuse you should use.
  • Replace bulbs that blow.
  • Don’t leave lights on when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Don’t let the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily, such as paper or fabrics – be especially careful with other Christmas tree decorations.


Festive decorations made of tissue paper or cardboard burn particularly easily, so keep decorations and greeting cards away from heaters, lights, fireplaces and candles.

Candles and nightlights are often used in celebrations for Christmas and other festivals. They should never be put in or by a Christmas tree, plants, flowers or other foliage. You should also be careful that ribbons and other decorations aren’t near any candle flames.

Fire Safety During Celebrations and Holidays

As well as the everyday care you should take in your home, you should take extra precautions if you are hosting a party, or if you have friends or family staying in your home, for example:

  • If you have guests staying the night, make sure they know how to escape safely.
  • Let guests know of any features they may not be familiar with, such as how to unlock your front door.
  • Tell guests where the door keys are kept overnight.
  • Take particular care of elderly people, children and those with disabilities.
  • If there are smokers, put out enough ashtrays so ash and butts don’t get dropped in places like wastepaper bins.

Remember, if a fire starts, get everyone out of the property and close all doors behind you. Dial 999 and ask for the Fire & Rescue Service.

For further information, phone 028 9266 4221.  #STOPfire

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