Featured Injury Prevention

Tips to fireproof your holidays

Written by Lindsay Smith

With the holiday season in full swing, many of us have decorations hung, gifts purchased and holiday treats planned. It’s a busy time of year, but that doesn’t make it any less important to keep fire safety in mind so you and your loved ones can enjoy a fun-filled, safe holiday season.

Below are several tips from the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OFAC), on everything from hanging lights safely to making sure you know how to put out a grease fire.

Happy — and safe — holidays!

Holiday lights

We all love the look and feel of twinkly lights. Here are a few tips so you can enjoy them safely.

Make sure to check the cords on light sets closely and discard any that are frayed or damaged.

If you’re using an extension cord, don’t plug any more than three standard-sized light sets into one extension cord.

It’s important to turn off all lights at night or when you leave the house.


Candles can add atmosphere and cozy light to dim rooms during early evenings. But when not used safely, they can pose a significant fire hazard.

The most important rule when lighting candles is to never leave them unattended — blow them out before you leave a room or go to bed at night.

Keep candles away from children, pets and anything that could be flammable: curtains, upholstery or holiday decorations.

Christmas trees

Whether you’re using a real or artificial tree, keep the following fire safety tips in mind:

If you’re using a real tree, place it away from heaters, fireplaces or candles.

Water your tree once a week — real trees dry out quickly indoors and that increases the fire risk.

Artificial trees should be “fire-resistant,” which won’t prevent them from catching on fire, but they won’t burn as quickly and will be easier to extinguish.

Cooking safety

There’s a lot of cooking and baking over the holidays, and in the busyness of the season, it’s easy to get distracted when cooking. But staying focused in the kitchen will help keep you and your loved ones safe.

If you’re frying, broiling or grilling, stay in the kitchen. If you have to leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove. For simmering, roasting, boiling or baking, stay in the home while cooking, check on the food regularly and use a cooking timer.

Grease and fat fires are a leading cause of house fires in Canada, according to the OFAC. If a pot or pan catches fire, here’s what to do:

  • Smother any flames by covering the pot with a lid. Don’t remove the lid until it has cooled completely.
  • Turn off the heat immediately
  • Use baking soda (not flour; it can be explosive) on shallow grease fires
  • Don’t turn on the overhead exhaust fan; it can spread the fire
  • Never throw water on a grease fire

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

The holidays are a great opportunity to check that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order. There should working smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside all sleeping areas. Test your smoke alarms regularly (every six months).

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, invisible gas that can become deadly very quickly. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas in your home.

There is more information available on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on the OFAC website.

About the author

Lindsay Smith