Take care at Christmas advises council

Fire prevention message from Westmeath Fire & Rescue

Most of us increase the chance of fire occurring in our homes by introducing items such as paper decorations, Christmas trees, temporary lighting, and large amounts of wrapping paper and boxes. These few simple precautions can dramatically reduce the risk of fire, particularly during the Christmas period.

Chimneys and fires

Use a spark guard at all times. Never hang Christmas cards or decorations directly over a fireplace, and do not throw wrapping paper onto the fire.

Most chimney fires occur when deposits of soot are set alight by flames or sparks from an open fire. It is recommended that chimneys are cleaned at least twice a year, once at the beginning of the cold weather period and again in the new year. Remember a chimney fire can cause damage to the flue and cracks through which sparks can travel and cause a fire elsewhere in the house.

If you have a chimney fire:

Place a spark guard in front of the fire to stop hot soot from falling out.

Gently pour water over the fire to extinguish it and keep a supply of water nearby.

Call the fire brigade (dial 999 or 112 ).

After a chimney fire have the chimney checked by a builder and carry out any necessary repairs.,

Christmas trees

Purchase a non-shedding tree. Check the tree for freshness before purchase. As soon as you get home, cut at least 1 inch off the trunk and immediately place in a bucket of water.

Avoid placing the tree close to a fireplace or radiator. Be careful not to block a door with the tree or re-arranged furniture.

The tree should be mounted in a sturdy stand. The trunk should stand in a container of water, and water should be kept topped up. Tall trees should be secured at the top.

Ensure lights comply with a safety standard (look for a CE or BS mark ). Check lights for frayed or exposed wires. Do not attempt to repair a worn set of lights; replace them. Replace broken bulbs only with similar bulbs. Do not leave lights on for prolonged periods and always switch off lights at night and when leaving the area unattended. Always use indoor lights indoors, and outdoor lights outdoors!

Decorations should be non combustible.

Remove the tree as soon as possible after Christmas; it is recommended that trees not be kept indoors for more than two weeks. Dispose of it at a bring site/ recycling centre. Never burn a tree in a wood stove or fireplace.

Artificial trees should be flame retardant, check the packaging for the CE or BS mark.


Place candles in a secure holder, where they cannot be easily knocked over.

Do not place candles on a Christmas tree.

Never leave lit candles unattended or close to combustible decorations or curtains.

Put tea lights on a suitable heat resistant container. Never put them directly on a combustible surface, eg TV or table.

Last thing at night, unplug lights and other electrical equipment. Put a spark guard in front of the fire. Check for any smouldering cigarette ends, check the kitchen, and switch off all appliances. Close all room doors.

Finally, check your smoke alarms now. If you don’t have a smoke alarm, get one!

Westmeath Fire & Rescue Services would like to wish everyone a peaceful and happy Christmas and a safe new year.


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