The holiday season is here and with it comes decorations and chilly weather! This season, take a few minutes to review these fire safety tips so you and your loved ones can stay safe while staying warm and celebrating the holidays.

1. Make sure your smoke alarms work

The Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) recommends having one smoke alarm on each floor of your home, including the basement. They should be 10-year smoke alarms, with sealed lithium-ion batteries.

  • Test each alarm in your house.
  • Check the date on your alarms. If they are more than 10 years old, they need to be replaced.
  • If your smoke alarms use 9-volt batteries, replace them with smoke alarms that use 10-year, sealed lithium-ion batteries. 

If you don’t have smoke alarms, you can request them for free through 311 or buy them at most hardware stores.

2. Follow proper Christmas tree care

Did you know that properly choosing, caring for, and disposing of your Christmas tree can help prevent house fires? In Philadelphia, natural-cut Christmas trees are allowed only in one- and two-family homes. 

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • When choosing a tree, bend some of the needles. If they break, the tree is too dry.
  • After picking your tree, cut an extra inch or two off the trunk. The fresh cut will help the tree absorb water.
  • Place the tree firmly in its stand, with plenty of room for water.
  • Check the water level daily, and water the tree if needed.
  • Never leave a lighted tree unattended.
  • Don’t let the tree block any exits or stairs.
  • Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles, or heat vents.

3. Recycle or dispose of your tree after the holiday or if it becomes dry

Dried-out trees are a fire risk. They shouldn’t be in your home or garage, or leaning against your home. Your tree is too dry if it’s losing needles, the needles are turning brown, or the branches are beginning to snap.

When your tree is dry, you should recycle or dispose of the tree immediately.

Recycle it

The Department of Streets Christmas Tree Recycling Program will take place Tuesday, January 2 through Saturday, January 13. While the program is running, you may bring your Christmas tree to one of several designated locations or to a sanitation convenience center.

Trees must be untied and have no decorations to make it easy to recycle them. Recycled trees are sent to a vendor that chips them up as a bulking agent for composting.

Many other local businesses and organizations will also recycle your Christmas tree, sometimes for a fee. Check with your local neighborhood group or composting business to see if they will be holding any tree recycling events.

Dispose of it

Philadelphia residents may dispose of their live Christmas trees curbside. Trees placed curbside will be taken by the City as trash instead of being composted.

4. Safely set up your holiday decorations

Holiday lights help make this season magical, but they can pose a serious fire risk if left unattended or not properly installed. 

  • Don’t overload electrical outlets with multiple plugs or extension cords.
  • Make sure electrical cords for lights are not frayed or knotted.
  • Check that the lights are for indoor use if you’re hanging them inside.
  • Replace any string of lights that may have worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections.
  • Do not string more than three strands of lights together. You can read the manufacturer’s instructions to learn about the maximum number of light strands you can safely connect together.
  • Keep candles 12 inches away from anything that can burn and never leave candles unattended while they’re lit.
  • Turn off decorations before you go to bed and make sure to blow out all candles.
  • Use battery-operated, flameless candles instead of traditional wax candles.
  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

5. Heat your home safely

Heating sources are the second-leading cause of home fires. It’s important that you heat your home safely to prevent an emergency.

  • Keep any object that could catch fire at least 3 feet away from a heat source. 
  • Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
  • Never plug a space heater into an extension cord or power strip. 
  • Never use an oven to heat your home.