FIRE SMART: Be safe for Christmas

Here are tips from the Canada Safety Council we all need to pay attention to

The spirit and good will of the holidays makes it truly a magical time of the year! The joy of the season can be seen everywhere as people wish each other a spirited, Merry Christmas.

Unfortunately, however, there is a less joyful side of Christmas that sadly comes in the form of an elevated risk of tragedy on our roads and in our homes and can cause fire departments to be very busy at this time of year.

So this year, my Christmas wish is that Vernon Fire Rescues Services doesn’t have to go to any fires or traffic accidents and instead everyone has the best Christmas ever! To help make my wish come true, here is a list of things from the Canada Safety Council we all need to pay attention to:


Drivers and pedestrians “Watch out for each other and keep an eye on where you are going!”

Pedestrians wear light or high visibility clothing so you can be seen when walking on or crossing roads at night. Do not drink and drive, plan for a safe way home.

Make sure your vehicle is winterized and has the proper winter tires.

Obey all traffic signs and signals.

Plan to take more time driving to appointments rather than committing to tight schedules.


Get a freshly cut tree. It will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard. Try to pick a tree with a strong green colour and noticeable fragrance.

Place the tree in a stand that will hold two to three litres of water and top it up daily. If the water drops below the trunk, the stem may reseal itself, requiring a fresh cut. Use a tree stand that has widespread legs for better balance.

Do not set your tree up near a heat source such as a radiator, television, fireplace, heating duct or sunny window. It should not block doors or windows.

Never use lighted candles on the tree.

Remove the tree within 10 to 14 days.  After that amount of time in a heated building, even the freshest tree can start to dry out.

Do not use electric light strings/sets on metallic trees. A faulty system could energize the tree.

Turn off all tree and display lights before retiring for the night or before leaving the house.


Place candles away from absolutely anything that could catch fire.

Never leave burning candles unattended. Burn them only when a responsible adult is overseeing the flame.

Put candles in sturdy holders on a stable surface, well away from drafts, curtains, children and pets. Snuff them out before leaving the room or going to sleep.

Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat.

Don’t hang Christmas stockings from the mantel when the fireplace is in use.

Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.

Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.

Use only seasoned and dried wood.

Never leave the fire unattended or let it smoulder.

Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.

Don’t use Christmas trees for firewood.


Choose decorations that are flame-retardant, non-combustible and non-conductive.

If there are young children or pets in your home, avoid very small decorations.

Avoid using angel hair (glass wool) together with spray-on snowflakes. This combination is highly combustible.

Do not use metallic ornaments on the tree. If they make contact with defective wiring they could become a shock hazard.

Use Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified light strings/sets. There is often a tendency to overload wall outlets during the holiday season. This is an unsafe practice and should be avoided.

Inspect all cords before using. Make sure they are CSA certified. Look for loose connections or frayed or exposed wire. Discard any defective cords. Read the labels and manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper use.

Insert plugs fully into outlets. Poor contact may cause overheating or shock.

Please help make my wish come true. This season take the time to be fire and road smart. Make the effort to insure that you and your family have a safe, fun-filled holiday and with that in mind, Vernon Fire Rescue Services would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a heartfelt Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Lawrie Skolrood is a deputy chief with Vernon Fire Rescue Services.