Festive decor and hidden dangers abound during the holiday season, authorities warn

While it may be the season to be jolly, authorities warn there are hidden holiday hazards during this time of year and urge revelers to be extra vigilant, especially around children.

The biggest and most festive of these hazards can be found right in the living room: a Christmas tree.


Each year across the United States, roughly 200 house fires are caused by Christmas trees, approximately three of those fires tend to end in fatalities, according to safety officials.

Officials with the Glendale Fire Department say two to three tree fires occur each year in the city.


During a demonstration on Monday at Fire Station 21, a pine tree was set on fire to demonstrate how quickly it can go up in flames. The tree was dried out prior to the demonstration.

Anita Shandi, a spokeswoman for the department, said fires tend to break out when live trees are placed too close to a heat source, such as a fireplace or vent. Fires also happen when electrical outlets that tree lights are plugged into become overloaded.

The fires can become even more dangerous when a tree has dried out. An unwatered tree can be consumed by flames within seconds.

To help prevent fires, Shandi said trees should be watered every day and placed at least 3 feet away from heat sources. Christmas trees also shouldn’t block any exits in the home, such as doors or windows.

Shandi also said unsupervised stoves and ovens used while cooking holiday meals pose a risk. In fact, she said it’s the most common call the department answers during this time of year.

Poisoning and choking dangers are also present during the holiday season.

Cyrus Rangan, a physician with the California Poison Control System, said the holidays can lead to a different environment in a home with items not normally present during the rest of the year.

“And, with all the commotion and guests around the home, it could be harder to supervise kids, especially with all these new items around,” he said.

These items can range from ornaments to lights and even include candy from other countries.

Rangan said people should be wary of decorations and food items brought from other countries because they may be made with toxic materials such as lead paint.

Another toxic danger is carbon monoxide poisoning.

“This is a time of year where we’re cranking up the heat in our houses,” Rangan said. “If you don’t get complete combustion of your gas furnace then carbon monoxide can develop.”

He added that using unconventional heat sources like ovens, stoves and kerosene lamps are dangerous and can lead to poisoning.

As a preventive measure during the holidays, people can install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in their homes. If a home already has detectors, Rangan said the season is the perfect time to check the batteries and replace them if needed.