Fire Safety Tips This Holiday Season from the Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and the New York City Fire Department

Oct 1, 2013


The activity and excitement of the holidays tend to make people less careful when they should be more cautious. In the United States, there are an estimated 47,000 fires every holiday season that claim more than 500 lives a year.

Dr. Roger Yurt, director, and Nicole E. Leahy, R.N., M.P.H., manager of outreach and community education of the Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, have joined with the New York City Fire Department to offer the following holiday fire prevention tips:

  • Water your natural tree. Trees that are cut early in the season quickly dry out to become fire hazards, so make sure to keep them well watered and at least three feet from any heat source such as a fireplace, space heater, stove, candle or radiator.
  • Use fire-retardant decorations whenever possible and keep all decorations at least three feet away from sources of heat such as space heaters, candles, fireplaces, stoves, and radiators.
  • Don’t overload your outlets. Use a surge protector when plugging multiple devices such as holiday lights and decorations into a single outlet.
  • Use extension cords safely. Limit the use of extension cords to short periods of time. If using an extension cord outdoors, please make sure the cord is designed specifically for outdoor use.
  • Screen your fireplace. Placing a screen over the fireplace prevents the embers from escaping. If you must place your Christmas tree near your fireplace make sure the fireplace is not in use. Before using your fireplace remove the tree and clean up all of the needles. Keep children at least three feet away from the fireplace during and after use, as they can get burned not only by the fire and heat but also by touching the hot screen.
  • Never leave holiday lights or candles unattended. The chance of having a candle fire quadruples during the holiday season. Never leave religious or other candles burning unattended. Turn your holiday lights off and extinguish all candles before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Inspect your holiday lights every year. Only buy and use electrical decorations and holiday lights that have been inspected and approved by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Inspect and test them each year before use.
  • Keep your exits clear, and always know where they are. Avoid placing a tree, decorations, or other objects in front of an exit. Learn where the exits are in your home.
  • Avoid candles on the Christmas tree. Never decorate your holiday tree with candles, even if you don’t intend to light them.

For more information, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS. To get more practical fire prevention tips for the entire family, visit the FDNY fire safety page at

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive hospitals, with some 2,600 beds. In 2012, the Hospital had nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits, including 12,758 deliveries and 215,946 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian’s 6,144 affiliated physicians and 20,154 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at six major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation’s leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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