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Environmental Health & Safety

Apartment Holiday Decorations

When holiday decorations are employed, they need to be used in a manner not to create a fire safety hazard.  The following are guidelines on how to use holiday decorations in an apartment in a fire safe manner.

  • Combustible materials such as hay or straw, bamboo, dry moss, wood shavings, dry leaves, wood bark, corn stalks and corn shucks, saw dust, and tumbleweed is prohibited to be used as holiday decorations.
  • We recommend the use artificial Christmas trees that are labeled as fire resistant or flame retardant.
  • Do not place electric lights on metal artificial trees.  Remote spotlights are recommended for use with metal trees to avoid an electrical hazard.
  • When using a cut tree, attempt to find a fresh one with the following characteristics:
    • A fresh tree is green.
    • Fresh needles are difficult to pull from branches
    • When bent between your fingers, fresh needles do not break
    • The truck butt of a fresh Christmas tree is sticky with resin
    • When the trunk of a fresh tree is bounced on the ground, needles will not shower on the ground.
  • Place a cut Christmas tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources that will dry out, creating a fire hazard.
  • After acquiring the cut tree, cut off approximately two inches off the butt of the tree to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.  Trim away branches as necessary to set the tree trunk in a base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet.  Keep the stand filled with water while the tree is indoors.
  • Place the Christmas tree out of the way of traffic.  If the tree is particularly large, secure it to a wall or the ceiling with wires.
  • Never use lighted candles on a Christmas tree or near other evergreens.
  • Never burn a Christmas tree in a fireplace.


  • Only use lights that have been identified for indoor use and the bear the label of Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual.
  • Before using, check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.  Disregard damaged sets or repair them before using.
  • Use no more than three sets of holiday lights per extension cord.
  • Light strings should not be attached to walls or molding with staples, tacks, nails or paper tape.  Use electrical tape or string them with cup-type hooks.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.  Cube taps are not recommended.
  • Turn off all interior holiday light sets before going to bed or leaving your residence.  Lights could short and start a fire.
  • Plugging lights directly into a wall or surge protector is preferred.

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 6/28/2011. Disclaimer.