Don't let Christmas cheers turn into tears

Published: 1st December 2011

Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) firefighters are bringing good tidings for the festive season with some sound fire safety advice to ensure the joy of Christmas doesn’t turn into heart break for NSW families.

FRNSW Commissioner Greg Mullins said as householders started putting up their Christmas trees, lights and decorations they should be mindful that overloading and failing to check power boards and power points were real fire safety risks.

“The use of decorative lights and candles, piggy-backing double adapters and using electrical cords and plugs which have been packed away for 12 months, all have the potential to cause a fire in the home,” he said.

“Checking lights and other decorations is a simple but effective way to prevent a household fire this festive season.”

Commissioner Mullins said there were 673 residential fires between 1 December 2010 and 31 January 2011, with 85 people injured during that period. At least 21 of those fires involved electrical equipment and at least 11 were caused by candles.

“Getting into the spirit of Christmas with lots of lights and other accessories is great fun but overenthusiastic decorating can lead to overloaded electrical circuits,” he said.

“We also strongly recommend that homeowners do not go overboard on the double adapters or place electrical cables where they could get damaged."

Commissioner Mullins added it was also important indoor lighting and indoor power cords were not used outdoors as they were not waterproof and could cause fires or electrocution.

“Synthetic Christmas trees can be highly flammable so only lights and decorations designed for Christmas trees should be used,” he said.

“Too many NSW families have had their Christmas spoiled by a trip to the hospital because of accidents in the home that are easily preventable.

“We want NSW families to have a bright, happy and safe Christmas this year so we’re urging people to use their common sense when it comes to electrical safety,” he said.


  • Check lights and electronic decorations for faults, worn plugs and frayed cords.

  • When you’re setting up fairy lights and other electric decorative ornaments make sure you use only one item per power socket. For maximum safety, if you use a power board, ensure it has both overload protection and earth leakage protect devices incorporated.

  • Only use decorative lights that have an Australian Standards label.

  • Inspect the plugs and leads of used decorative lights to ensure they are in good working order. If in doubt, replace the lights.

  • Only use one set of decorative lights per power socket – never overload power boards or piggy back double adaptors.

  • Lights and candles can become hot so don’t place near paper trimmings, decorations or curtains and don’t leave burning candles unattended.