Here's what causes house fires on Christmas

American firefighters battle three to four times more house fires on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day than they do on an average day.

Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the second and third days with the most house fires of any other day of the year, so knowing what tends to cause those house fires will help to keep your family safe this holiday season. 

"There are between three and four times more fires than a typical day of the year," said Susan McKelvey of the National Fire Protection Association

Deck the halls danger

Fire crews put out about 790 home fires yearly, started by holiday decorations, not on a Christmas tree. Those fires kill, on average, one person a year and injure 26 more, according to the NFPA.

Cooking sets decorations ablaze in one out of every five of those 790 fires. Candles are the big culprit, lighting 45% of all decoration fires. 

Christmas Day sees the most candle-caused fires in a year. Candle fires are 2.5 times more likely than any other day of the year, with Christmas Eve coming in a close second.

Officials say that almost half of the decorations' fires were sparked because the decoration was too close to a heat source or a light.

On average, fires started around the Christmas holiday leads to $13 million in home property damage a year.

Tannenbaum ablaze

Christmas trees spark fires about 160 home fires a year.

"Christmas tree fires don't happen very often. The thing is, when they happen, they're much more likely to be deadly," explained McKelvey. "The fire death rate for Christmas tree fires is much higher than other types of fires. Christmas trees are only around in our homes for a short window of time. So it's a very condensed time for that number of fires."

Statistics show that Christmas tree fires kill an average of two people and injure 12 more yearly. They cause about $10 million of property damage.

Electrical issues were blamed for half of those fires. Another 20% ignited because the tree was too close to a heat source, decorative lights started about 20%, and candles started 8% of them.

Thanksgiving tops the list for the day with the most house fires, and New Year’s Day comes in fourth.

"If you have an awareness of where potential risks exist, taking simple measures can make a tremendous difference in minimizing the likelihood of having a home fire," said McKelvey. "So cook with care, keep a close eye on what you're cooking, decorate carefully with candles, make sure you keep anything that can burn at least three feet away. You know, with simple things that can make a huge difference"

Holiday ham mishap

Year-round cooking is the leading cause of house fires and the leading cause of home fire deaths.

A report by FEMA showed that 165 people died and 3,325 were injured by cooking fires between 2017 and 2019. That makes meal mishaps the leading cause of civilian fire injuries and the second leading cause of civilian fire deaths.


Property loss from the 187,500 cooking fires in the report tallied up to $444 million

"The leading cause of cooking fires is unattended cooking. We are all super busy. It's easy to get distracted. And that's a lot of times when people run into problems because they're not monitoring the situation that occurs while they're cooking on the stove or in the oven," said McKelvey NFPA. 

Home heating fires

Heating is the second leading cause of home fires and fire injuries and the top fire cause during the cooler months.


Eighty percent of home heating fire deaths are caused by space heaters. Half of all home heating fires happen in December, January and February.

This holiday season will be particularly cold. Record-breaking cold and life-threatening wind chills threaten over 150 million Americans


"Many folks in the Deep South and across part of the United States are not going to have conventional heating methods," the Red Cross’ Stephanie Fox told FOX Weather. "So they're going to turn on space heaters, they're going to use their fireplaces, and that can be done safely. 

She continued, "Make sure those methods are away from anything combustible. They have to make sure those are off before they go to bed, before they leave the room, and to never, ever use your oven or your stove as a heating mechanism."

Year-round, the leading cause of heating fires is failure to clean the equipment, usually chimneys, according to NFPA. Fire departments respond to about 48,530 heating equipment fires annually, estimating $220 million of property damage. 


Prepare for the unexpected fire

Make a plan to exit the house and practice it with your family to keep everyone safe. The NFPA states that a person has as little as 2 minutes to get safely out of a house once the alarm sounds.

Stats show that homeowners have been better at preventing house fires since the 1980s, but fires have been more deadly.

"While the number of home fires is declining, the home fire death rate has stagnated in recent years," said McKelvey. "So what we're seeing is that people, when they do have fires, they're struggling to get out."

So deck the halls and be merry and bright, as well as safe and fire smart this holiday season.