Can Christmas Lights Start A Fire?

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When the holidays come around, you want it to be a time of love and fun with your family and friends. What you don’t want to be worried about is whether or not your house is going to burn down due to the decorations that you’ve installed. So, should you go out and buy some Christmas lights or would it be better to celebrate in another way?

Yes, christmas or other holiday lights can start a fire. Not all types of lights will get hot enough to start a fire, but some can. LED lights usually create less heat and fire risks than other kinds of lights.

So, let’s take a look at this issue in more detail and what precautions you might want to take at Christmas to keep everyone safe. 

Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.

Also read: What Is The Temperature Of Fire? How Hot Does it Get?

Do Christmas Lights Get Hot Enough To Start A Fire?

christmas lights cause fire

The old-style Christmas lights, including fairy lights and other loose bulbs, could, in theory, get hot enough to start a fire but, in reality, this does not happen very often.

Christmas lights don’t tend to start fires through overheating. 

Can Christmas Lights Start A Fire?

Yes, Christmas lights can start fires. But, in the vast majority of cases, it’s not the lights themselves that are the problem – it’s the wiring. 

If there’s a fault in the wiring, you risk creating a “short circuit” (this is when two separate parts of the wire come into contact and create a feedback loop for electricity, this means that instead of passing through the circuit, the energy is kept in it and the wire gets hotter and hotter and hotter). 

Also read: How To Put Out An Electrical (Class C) Fire: Firefighter Approved

If you want to know more about how this can happen, watch this Mythbusters video:

1. Check The Wiring

So, if you want to avoid a fire from your Christmas lights, you ought to take some time, each year, before you put them out to check the wiring in the lights – this is doubly true if you have an old set of lights that has been in the family forever. 

You want to see if you can find any molten bits on the casing or any breaks. If you find any, then replace that strand of your light setup or replace the whole lighting setup if that’s not possible. 

Also, if you use extension cords to plug your Christmas lights into – make sure you check the wiring and the cables on those.

2. Check The Outlet

You might also want to just check the outlet you’re going to plug them into too, any sign of discoloration, sparking when a plug is inserted, or smoke should lead to calling an electrician before you sign your lights off as safe.

In fact, if you think the outlet is faulty, you should isolate it on your breaker before calling the electrician. 

And one last word of warning – if you have a “real” tree then you may need to water it to keep it in shape. That’s fine. But make sure to switch off the lights while you do and don’t turn them back on until it’s been absorbed by the tree. Electricity and water don’t mix. 

Also read: Can Static Electricity Start A Fire?

Can You Leave Christmas Lights On All Night?

While we think it’s unlikely that leaving your lights on all night would cause a fire, we also think it’s better not to take the chance. 

If an electrical fault develops during the day, you might notice it before it gets out of hand, but if you’re fast asleep? The first thing that you will know about it is when your house is burning down. Better safe than sorry, right? 

Outdoor Christmas lights, on the other hand, as long as they’re secured properly should be OK to leave on overnight, a lighting fire is unlikely to burn the exterior of your house in any permanent way. 

But it might be kinder to the environment to switch them off too. 

But it can happen… take a look at this video:

How Many House Fires Each Year Start From Christmas Lights Or Decorations?

According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) on average nearly 800 homes a year in the United States catch fire due to some issue with the Christmas decorations (including lights). 

This results in a single death, but 26 injuries and over $13 million dollars of property damage each year too!

Now, 800 is not a lot, in a country of millions of people, but it’s best to try and avoid risking becoming one of the unlucky few. 

Can LED Christmas Lights Catch Fire?

Christmas LED lights will almost never catch fire from overheating, as LED bulbs simply don’t get hot enough, but that doesn’t mean that they are 100% risk-free either.

You still need to check the wiring for LED lighting as you would with any other kind of lighting, and it is the wiring which is most likely to cause a fire. 

Are Twinkle Lights A Fire Hazard?

Only very old fairy lights (twinkle lights) are likely to be a fire hazard in their own right. Modern fair lights don’t get hot enough to start fires.

However, always check the wiring on any kind of lighting before putting it into use. 

Are Outdoor Christmas Lights A Fire Hazard?

As long as you use proper outdoor Christmas lights and use a heavy-duty extension cord that is fully rated for outdoor use, they’re designed to prevent electrical shock and fire hazards and ought to be waterproof too.

Therefore, they pose very little risk of starting a fire. 


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