The Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and the New York City Fire Department Offer Tried and True Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

From the Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell

Dec 13, 2011


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, both of the Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, have joined with the New York City Fire Department to urge everyone to exercise caution all of the time and to offer these special tips for the holiday season:

  • Trees: One in every 22 home fires caused by a Christmas tree results in death. Remember that trees that are cut early in the season quickly dry out to become fire hazards, so make sure to keep them well watered. Never put a tree in front of an exit, and always make sure it is placed at least three feet from any heat source such as a fireplace, space heater, candle or radiator.
  • Candles: The chance of having a candle fire quadruples during the holiday season. Never leave religious, or any, candles burning unattended. Make sure candles are placed at least four feet from curtains, holiday decorations and Christmas trees.
  • Decorations: Never decorate your holiday tree with candles, even if you don't intend to light them. Keep all decorations away from sources of heat such as space heaters, candles, fireplaces and radiators and, when possible, use fire-retardant decorations.
  • Lights: Only buy holiday lights that have been inspected and approved by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Inspect and test lights each year before using them. Unplug the lights when going to sleep or leaving your home.
  • Electricity and Electrical Wires: Never leave holiday lights on when you leave the house. If a wire should short, you might return to find your house on fire! Make sure not to overload outlets, limit the use of extension cords to short periods of time, and use a surge protector when plugging in holiday lights and decorations.
  • Fireplaces: Never place a Christmas tree near a fireplace. If there is no other place to put it, do not use the fireplace until after the tree has been removed and the needles have been cleaned up. Use a screen over the fireplace to prevent embers from escaping. Keep small children at least three feet from the fireplace area.
  • Holiday Cooking: Create a three-foot zone of safety around the stove, oven and cooking areas to ensure that children and other adults will stay clear of pot handles, oven doors and open burners on the stove. "When cooking, wear short sleeves and/or tight-fitting clothing to prevent it from getting caught in a flame on the stove; and turn pot handles inward on the stove."

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 and the FDNY fire safety page for children,

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five 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 and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. 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. For more information, visit

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Linda Kamateh 212-821-0560