Make your home fire safe this holiday


‘Tis the season ... for fires caused by faulty electrical systems, overloaded outlets, dry trees too near electrical sources, etc.

With Christmas cheer comes fire safety responsibility. Deck the halls, but be sure and check those outlets in walls. Is your home really fire safe?

Maurice Luque, spokesman for San Diego Fire Rescue Department, points out humidity levels can cause homes to become firetraps during the holiday season. “Christmas trees dry out very easily inside a home whether they’re live or they’re cut trees,” Luque said, “because of the dryness of the air inside the home. Keep them watered. Make sure all electrical extension cords are not frayed. Inspect them. They get nicked very easily. Make sure there are no exposed wires or any lights out on strings. Make sure the power strips you’re using are not overloaded.”

Luque said it’s important to be cognizant of exactly where the tree is situated in your home. Above all, ensure the tree is away from any electrical source that could potentially cause a fire. “Make sure the tree is not near anything that can short-out,” he said. “If sparks happen, the tree and presents and decorations go up very quickly. Make sure the tree is away from heaters or furnaces or fireplaces - even those that have grates in front.”

Candles are another especially dangerous potential fire-starter in homes during the year-end holidays. Said Luque: “Never, ever leave candles unattended. They should be kept away from trees. Children carrying candles around have the potential to set their clothes on fire or the tree on fire.”

A number of other simple, common-sense preventative measures can be taken to make your home fire-safe. “Make sure you have a smoke alarm in your house that is functioning,” said Luque. “Make sure it has a fresh battery and change those every six months. Test it out to make sure it works.”

Luque said front rooms and kitchens are strategic places to locate smoke alarms, as these are some of the more likely spots in homes for fires to start.

Also, it’s important to plan for the worst - just in case.

“It’s always good to have a worst-case scenario,” said Luque. “People have this, ‘It’s-never-going-to-happen-to-me mentality. If the worst does happen, you get caught in a fire, have a plan. Make sure everybody in the house knows what to do, that they’ve discussed it, maybe even practiced it.”

Fire drills in homes aren’t a bad idea, pointed out Luque. Besides planning ahead in the event of a fire, people should be thinking ahead in terms of fire safety. Try those doors and windows in the home. Make sure they’re not stuck or rusted in place. Make sure window latches all work and can be turned.

“If you have screen doors that have locks on them,” said Luque, “make sure that the key is left inside the door. Sometimes, people try to get out but the key isn’t in the door. Firemen have to cut through screen doors in order to rescue them.”

Here are some holiday lighting safety tips from SDG&E:

  • Purchase only lights with the certification mark of a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) mark.
  • Inspect all seasonal lights for frayed cords, loose connections and broken sockets before using.
  • Replaced damaged electrical cords - do not attempt to repair them.
  • Do not plug all your extra seasonal lights into one socket or circuit.
  • Keep your tree well watered and your light cords dry.
  • Do not let tree light bulbs touch needles and branches.
  • Never use indoor lights outside.
  • Attach outdoor lights with hooks – do not put staples, nails or tacks through cords.
  • Plug all outdoor lighting into the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets only. These outlets have small test and reset buttons.
  • Tape all outside extension cord connections to seal out moisture.
  • Turn off lights when you leave your business or house or go to bed.

Homeowners can also increase sparkle, safety and savings with LED Holiday Lights. While decorating your home this holiday season, make sure to take advantage of new light-emitting diode (LED) lights for significant energy savings and increased safety. Holiday lights featuring LEDs can save 90 percent or more in lighting costs when compared to traditional incandescent holiday lights.

“LED lights generate little to no heat and are cool to the touch, which is especially good for homes with small children,” said Michelle M. Mueller, vice president, customer services – mass markets for SDG&E. “In addition to decreasing potential fire hazards posed with traditional lights, LED holiday lights can pay for themselves almost immediately depending on their use.”

LED lights have been used for many decades in familiar items such as digital clocks, remote controls, traffic signals and more. Now LED holiday lights are available in an increasing variety of colors, shapes and sizes at major retail outlets and home improvement stores. LEDs are also more durable than traditional holiday lights and last much longer - offering more than 100,000 hours of use in some cases.

SDG&E has programs and services for residential and business customers to help save energy this holiday season and year-round, including lighting exchange events where you can trade your old incandescent holiday lights for new LEDs. For details, visit or call 1-800-411-SDGE (7343).