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festive safety

Cooking is the biggest cause of house fires in Scotland

If you’re tired, have been drinking, or taking drugs, you will be less alert to the signs of fire.

You are more likely to fall asleep and you are less likely to wake up if a fire does start, particularly if you don’t have working smoke alarms in your home. Make sure your home has working smoke alarms.

Every kitchen in your home should have at least one heat alarm to give you early warning of a fire.

If fire does break out, alcohol or drugs can heighten feelings of disorientation, making it difficult for you to escape.

If you’re out at a Christmas party or if you’re just having a night out down the pub, it’s best to buy food on the way home, rather than attempting to cook when you get back. If you do want to make something when you get home, then it’s best to prepare cold food – a sandwich could save your life!

Christmas Dinner

If you’re not concentrating, then cooking even the simplest meal can cause a fire – so when you’re doing turkey with all the trimmings, it’s even more important to keep alert.

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re cooking a big meal and it’s easy for fire to start - it only takes a minute: NEVER leave hobs unattended while you’re cooking.


Lots of us use candles to help decorate the house or give the place a more festive feel, however, candles do pose a significant fire risk.

If you do use candles or tea lights here are some key safety tips to keep you, your home and your family safe:

  • Make sure that when in use, candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire – like curtains, Christmas trees, decorations and toys.
  • Children and pets should not be left alone with lit candles.
  • Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re put out completely at night.
  • Trim the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning. Long or crooked wicks can cause uneven burning, dripping or flaring.
  • Don’t move candles once they are lit
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations on burn time and proper use.
  • Do not burn several candles close together as this might cause flaring (mainly with tea-lights).
  • Always make sure tea-lights are placed in a proper holder.  The foil container which tea lights come in can get very hot. They can melt through plastic, such as a bath, and have the potential to start a house fire.
  • Use a snuffer or a spoon to put out candles.  It’s safer than blowing them out when embers can fly.

Fairy Lights

  • Unplug fairy lights or other electrical Christmas decorations when you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Check fairy lights are in good working order and replace any bulbs that have blown.
  • Bulbs can get very hot, don’t let them touch materials that can scorch or burn easily, such as paper or fabrics.
  • Make sure the fuse in the plug is the correct rating.
  • If you need to plug more than one appliance into an electrical socket use a multi-socket adaptor which is fitted with a fuse and has surge protection.

Christmas Trees and Decorations

Christmas is a special time for celebration and should not end in tragedy because of the extra hazards that are present at this time of year. So when you’re decking the halls make sure you follow our simple advice and stay safe.

  • Decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard burn easily.
  • Don’t attach them to lights or heaters.
  • Don’t put them immediately above or around the fireplace.
  • Keep them away from candles.
Christmas Trees

Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.

Selecting a Tree for Christmas

Always buy your tree from a reputable retailer to ensure the freshness and quality. Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a potential fire hazard.

Caring for Your Tree

Don’t place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace, heat vent or candles. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of Your Tree

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling centre or having it taken away by a community pickup service.

Support for elderly community

Be a good citizen and look out for elderly relatives and neighbours over the festive period.

We all know older people who are at risk – it could be a grandmother, aunt, friend or neighbour. 

Year on year, the festive and New Year period sees a peak in deaths and injuries resulting from house fires. SFRS offer a free service that can help protect those people most at risk.  Many of us know a friend, relative or neighbour, often someone living alone, who could be vulnerable from fire. 

Our campaign calls on local people to Join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire. You can help us prevent fire deaths and injuries by making sure that you or someone you know gets a Home Fire Safety Visit.

Arranging a Visit is easy:    

A free Home Fire Safety Visit from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will help make sure your home is as safe as it can be. We'll help you sort out a fire escape plan and provide information about smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms. The process only takes about 20 minutes, and their advice and help could save your life.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are here to serve and protect. Our firefighters will visit anyone at risk from fire at a time that suits, day or night. But we need you to contact us. Tell us about someone at risk before it’s too late.

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