Department of Fire Rescue  |  Christmas Tree Safety

Holiday Decorating & Lighting

  • Use caution with holiday decorations and whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees. 
  • Purchase only lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. Do not overload extension cords.
  • Always unplug lights before replacing light bulbs or fuses.
  • Don't mount lights in any way that can damage the cord's wire insulation (i.e., using clips, not nails).
  • Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.


Holiday Entertaining

  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
  • Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding, or flush them down the toilet.
  • After a party, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet). When smokers visit your home, ask them to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
  • Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.


Christmas Tree Information

Natural cut trees are prohibited in the following:

  • Assembly:  Buildings or parts of buildings used for gathering of persons for the purpose of civic, social, or religious functions.  This also includes recreational areas.  Common assembly places include, but are not limited to, movie theaters, bowling alleys, gymnasiums, banquet halls, night clubs, restaurants, libraries, taverns/bars, stadiums, and auditoriums.
    Trees are allowed if located in an area protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
  • Educational:  Buildings or parts of buildings used by six (6) or more persons at any one time for educational purposes through the 12th grade. 
    Trees are allowed if located in an area protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
  • Institutional:  Buildings or parts of buildings used for persons having physical limitations or detained for correctional purposes where the liberty of the occupants are restricted.  This group includes child care and adult care facilities.  There are no exceptions.
  • Mercantile:  Buildings or parts of buildings used for the display and/or sale of merchandise.
    Trees are allowed if located in an area protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
  • Residential:  boarding houses, hotels, motels, dormitories, fraternities, and sororities.
    Trees are allowed if located in an area protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
  • Trees must be removed from a building when the needles fall off when the tree is shaken or if needles are brittle and break when bent.
  • Trees must not obstruct means of egress from a building.
  • Trees shall not use candles or open flames near the tree.
  • The tree should be kept away from heating vents or other heating devices.
  • Natural cut trees are permitted in places of worship and apartments.
  • Keep close check on your Christmas and holiday decorations:
  • Regularly check your tree for fresh, green needles. Trees that have dried out over several weeks burn faster than fresh, well-watered trees. Remember to keep your tree watered at all times.
  • Always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children, and don't leave children unattended in a room with lit candles.
  • Look for the holographic UL Mark on light strings and electrical decorations. The UL Mark means that UL engineers have tested samples of the product for safety hazards.
  • Green holographic UL Mark = Indoor-only use
  • Red holographic UL Mark = Indoor and outdoor use
  • Carefully inspect each electrical decoration - new or old - before plugging it in. Cracked sockets, frayed, bare or loose wires can cause a serious electric shock or start a fire. Replace damaged items with new, UL-Listed decorations.
  • Take down holiday lights after ninety (90) days of use to prevent damage from weather conditions and neighborhood animals.

Please contact our Prevention Divison & Office of the Fire Marshal for more information.

Contact the Department
Fire Rescue
460 Stagecoach Road
Charlottesville, VA 22902
FAX: 434-972-4123
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