DOJ: News Release

Fire Marshal Offers Holiday Safety Tips

HELENA – As the holidays approach, Montana Fire Marshal Terry Phillips and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are offering Montanans a few simple tips to make this holiday season a fire-safe one.

Each year in the United States, more than 10,000 people are treated for injuries from falls, cuts and electrical shocks related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. Christmas trees are also involved in about 400 fires annually, resulting in 20 deaths, 70 injuries and an average of more than $15 million in property loss and damage.

Live Christmas Trees

When purchasing a live Christmas tree, Phillips said Montanans should look for one that’s been treated with an approved flame retardant. Treated trees will have tags that state the type of flame-retardant treatment used, the name of the person who applied the flame retardant and the name of the individual affixing the tag.

Each tree should be checked for dryness. Phillips recommends grasping a branch firmly and pulling, allowing the branch to slip through. If the needles fall off readily, the tree does not have adequate moisture and should not be used.

Prior to setting up a tree, the trunk should have a fresh bottom cut on a diagonal at least an inch above the original cut. Support stands should be filled with hot tap water and the water level should be at least two inches above the butt of the tree. Phillips said if the water level drops below the bottom cut of the tree, the tree should be re-cut.

Trees should be tested daily and the test should include the test for dryness and a check of the water level. Candles and open flames should not be used on or near a tree within a distance equal to the height of the tree.


Each year there are 11,000 candle-related fires in the United States. In Montana, candles have caused three fires in Havre in three months and most recently, a Great Falls mobile home was destroyed by a fire caused by an unattended candle.

At home, candles should not be left unattended. Small children should not be allowed to light candles, as it may lead to other unsupervised use of matches and lighters. Young children are often exposed to “friendly fire,” like candles, fireplaces, campfires, etc., and they may not realize fire can become uncontrolled and deadly, Phillips said.


Throughout the home, decorations should be non-combustible or flame-retardant. Indoor and outdoor lights should be tested by a recognized testing laboratory – examples are Underwriters Laboratories or Factory Mutual – and conform to safety standards. Phillips said consumers should only purchase lights deemed safe by the testing facilities. Multi-plug adapters, multi-plug extension cords, cube adapters, strip plugs and other devices that do not comply with fire codes and electrical codes should also be avoided.


Wrapping papers should not be burned in the fireplace. Wrappings may ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Smoke Alarms

Holiday time is a good time of the year to check smoke alarms throughout the home, Phillips said, and make sure they have fresh batteries.

“If you’re stumped for a gift to give this season, give a ‘gift of life,’ ” Phillips said. “A smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector can save lives – maybe even your own.”

For more information on how to keep the holidays safe, visit the websites of the Consumer Product Safety Commission at or the National Fire Protection Association at

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