4 tips for a safe holiday season from the LA Fire Department

Decorations on a 50-foot-high Christmas tree.
Decorations on a 50-foot-high Christmas tree.
Corey Bridwell/KPCC

As Christmas approaches, so do the risks of holiday decorations catching fire. Even a small ember from an electrical short or fireplace could spell disaster, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott told KPCC. Sparks and heat can turn Christmas trees into major house fires in less than 30 seconds.

"Getting this information to the public can really make a difference," he said. "And that's what it's all about."

Scott shared the LAFD's top tips for ensuring a safe holiday season:

1. Don't burn gift wrap in the fireplace

This creates embers that can cause attic fires, Scott said.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America has an educational video demonstrating the dangers of burning wrapping paper at home:

The smoke generated by wrapping paper is also noxious. Inhaling the smoke may cause you to feel ill and may stain living room walls. 

2. Water your Christmas tree

Keeping a Christmas tree watered prevents dryness, a major cause of fire, according to Scott.

Eric Palonen, a YouTube personality with simple how-to videos, has instructions for an easier way to water your tree:

3. Have a family evacuation plan

"Get out and stay out," Scott said. When a house is burning, smoke can make it pitch black inside. It's important to establish a meeting place outside of your home and let kids know what to do in case of an emergency.

In this YouTube video, firefighter Jim Wielenga discusses the basics of a home fire evacuation plan:

4. Remove and recycle natural Christmas trees as soon as possible after Christmas

By removing a Christmas tree from your home as soon as possible, you remove the risk of a dried-out tree catching fire, Scott said.

Here are Scott's steps to removing a tree. 

  1. Remove decorations: ornaments, tinsel and stand.
  2. Cut tree in pieces with a handsaw to fit in green recycle bin.
  3. Put your bin outside for regular pickup on collection day.

You can find and learn about recycle bins on this L.A. County website.