SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Millions of people across the country are decorating for the holiday season, but there are some hidden dangers lurking under the Christmas tree.

The National Fire Protection Association said U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year between 2016-2020, and an estimated average of 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees.

To keep your family safe when decking the halls this holiday season, we are sharing tips from both state and local fire experts.

How many gallons of water a day does your tree need to stay safe?

“Decorations add joy and extra flair to our homes during the holiday season, but they can also increase our risk for an accidental fire,” said Acting Illinois State Fire Marshal Dale Simpson.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal is urging families to take caution, especially around live Christmas trees and candles.

OSFM said that half of home decoration fires in December are started by candles. Candle fires peak in December, followed closely by January. OSFM said the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve.

OSFM shared a few tips on keeping your trees and candles safe during the holiday season:

  • If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure to check water levels daily! It is not unusual for a tree to drink two gallons of water the first day it is in the stand.
  • Keep real Christmas trees away from a heat source. It can dry out the tree quickly.
  • Check to make sure your lights are rated for indoor or outdoor use or both.
  • Replace any light strands that have worn or broken cords. Make sure to read the recommendation for the number of light strings you can string together.
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Be careful with holiday decorations, and make sure they are either flame-retardant or flame-resistant.
  • Keep lit candles at least 12 inches away from decorations or anything that can catch fire.
  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
  • Extinguish all lit candles before going to bed or leaving the house.

Champaign Fire Department’s elf safety

More locally, the Champaign Fire Department is incorporating fun into its safety tips for the holiday season.

They are sharing photos on their Facebook page using some mischievous elves to help show people how to stay safe whether traveling to grandma’s house or waiting in bed for Santa.

In one photo, Bernie the elf was strapped into his seatbelt, but the fire department pointed out that she was not the right size for it. They added that children should be in the appropriately sized safety seat, and everyone should stay seated and belted when traveling.

Another photo featured Ember and Paign hanging out by an open door. The fire department reminds everyone, even elves, to close their bedroom doors before bed. They said a closed door will protect you from smoke and fire, help you escape, or help firefighters rescue you.

Watch out for more elf antics and safety tips to keep your family safe during the holiday season, and remember to keep those Christmas trees watered and candles blown out before bed!