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Holiday Fire Safety Begins at Home Says State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer

December 20, 2022 – With the holiday season and colder temperatures upon us, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is reminding Michiganders to use extra caution as this is historically a peak season for home fires. Unattended candles, space heaters, worn lights, and dry Christmas trees increase the risk of having a home fire this time of year.

"It is vital that all Michiganders follow basic fire safety tips to avoid tragedy this holiday season,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. “A dry Christmas tree is extremely flammable, and these types of fires can turn deadly within seconds, allowing little time for escape.”

If you choose to have a Christmas tree in your home this holiday season, please follow these safety tips:

  • For live trees, remember to check the water level every day.
  • Keep the tree away from candles, space heaters and smoking materials.
  • Use lights that are in good condition. Do not use lights with worn or tattered cords.

As this demonstration proves, a dried-out Christmas tree can catch fire and the whole room can ignite in less than one minute.

Additionally, in this video release, Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer offers more advice for staying safe and preventing house fires this holiday season.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top three days for home candle fires to occur is on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. In many cases, fires that occur around the holidays are caused by unattended candles left burning, either when the resident falls asleep or leaves the home with the candle left burning. Michigan residents are advised to:

  • Keep candles away from the Christmas tree, decorations, curtains, and furniture that can catch fire.
  • Always keep candles up high to prevent them from getting knocked over by children and pets.

Smoking Leading Cause of Fire Death in 2022

While the holiday season can pose a special risk for house fires, fire safety is a year-round concern. MI Prevention has identified that in 2022 the leading cause of fire deaths is careless smoking (52%) followed by electrical (13%) and candle fires (9%).

Michiganders are encouraged to follow these safety tips to protect themselves and loved ones from house fires:

  • Keep a cleared space of three feet around your space heater to avoid any object that can burn, including people.
  • Never sleep with your space heater on; Utilize only when you are awake.
  • Unplug space heaters when leaving the room.
  • Never smoke in bed; keep lighters and cigarettes away from children.
  • If you smoke, put your cigarette or cigar out all the way, every time.

Additionally, it is critically important for all homes to have working smoke detectors on every floor and in every sleeping area. As MI Prevention and the Michigan Fire Inspectors Society (MFIS) continue to track data on fatal fires and smoke alarm installations from fire departments across the state, the data shows that:

  1. 65% of fatal fires occurred between 6pm-6am.
  2. Michigan residents generally do not have working smoke alarms.
  3. Michigan residents are not escaping their homes in the less than two minutes from the start of a fire. Individuals should seek escape away from the smoke and where the fire starts to increase your chance of surviving a fire in your home.
  4. Michigan residents are not escaping home fires due to a lack of oxygen and smoke inhalation. Smoke alarms are key to early warning of a fire and allowing the residents to quickly escape. Get out and stay out. This is important to understand. The fire will only continue to grow using up oxygen and producing thick black smoke.

This holiday season, Michiganders are challenged to post family safety messages or action items on social media and use the tag #MIPrevention.

  • Make sure every home you visit this holiday has working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors by pushing the “test” button to check alarms and detectors.
  • Help develop escape route options for loved ones if a fire does occur.
  • Close a door between you and the smoke if a fire occurs to increase your survival time of escaping out a window or door opposite of the fire location.
  • Escaping away from the smoke, while closing doors between you and the fire are important messages to share with family members this holiday.

MI Prevention strongly encourages everyone, especially caregivers or anyone who takes care of someone, to watch the following fire safety video and help increase your chances of surviving a residential fire: MI Prevention fire safety

Fire can happen to anyone and escaping in less than two minutes is only possible with working smoke alarms, closed doors between you and the smoke, and practicing your escape plan. It is important for families to develop and practice a Fire Escape Plan. The MI Prevention task force has identified that people between the ages of 40 and 69 are at the greatest risk to die in residential fires in Michigan.

For more fire safety information, please visit the MI Prevention website at