Are Your Church Christmas Decorations a Fire Hazard?

Churches seldom look more beautiful than when they're decorated for the holidays. Candles, lights, and greenery add splendor to the celebration of Christ's birth. Unfortunately, they also contribute to a number of fires each December. As you haul out the decorations, remember to balance beauty with safety. Here are some common questions people ask about holiday decoration safety.

Are Live Trees Okay in Churches?

Before deciding to use live trees in your church, contact your local or state fire marshal’s office. Some fire codes restrict the use of cut trees in holiday displays. If it’s okay for churches in your area to use live evergreens, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Buy a freshly cut tree. Needles should feel soft and springy and shouldn't fall off.
  • Cut one inch off the bottom of the trunk and place the tree in a sturdy, large-capacity stand with plenty of water.
  • Keep the tree moist. Dry evergreens can ignite quickly if they're exposed to heat, electrical sparks, or open flames.
  • Display your tree no longer than 14 days.


Are Our Christmas Lights Still Safe to Use?

After years of use, the wiring powering holiday lights can become damaged. Before hanging any lights, check all electrical decorations for fraying or exposed wires. If defects are found, cut off the plug and discard the decoration. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Use tree lights and holiday lighting approved and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company, such as Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Turn off all holiday lighting when the building is vacant.
  • Never use staples or nails to secure the wiring of outdoor lights.
  • Don't link more than three light strands together, unless package directions indicate it's safe.
  • Be careful not to overload outlets and extension cords.


Can We Still Use Real Candles in Church?

Today, you can find flickering LED candles that look, feel, and even smell like traditional wax candles. We recommend using them predominantly, because they’re the safest option. But we understand that LED lights can’t always capture the magic of a dancing flame. If you go with traditional candles, use them carefully and sparingly.

  • Place them in sturdy candleholders.
  • Keep candles at least a foot away from anything that could burn.
  • Make sure they’re out of falling distance from any live or artificial Christmas tree.
  • Extinguish all candles when leaving the sanctuary. Don’t forget!


If you’re looking for more fire safety tips, the U.S. Fire Administration offers advice on holiday fire prevention, including this infographic and video clip.