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Home Safety

Christmas Tree Fires – The Fire Hazard In Your Living Room

christmas tree fires
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One in every 34 Christmas tree fires are deadly, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires. Additionally, fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires caused by Christmas trees each year.

Thanksgiving is soon approaching, the leaves are turning, and the smell of fireplaces fill the air. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

With the holidays fast approaching we want you and yours to enjoy a nice, happy, warm holiday season.

Soon you’ll be ready to put up your Christmas tree, all those lights, and drag out those big inflatables.

Your beautifully decorated Christmas tree can also be a deadly fire hazard. Did you know that Christmas tree fires are deadlier than the average house fire?

Christmas Tree Fires

Electrical distribution or lighting equipment is involved in one-third (35%) of all home Christmas tree fires.  43% of reported all home Christmas tree fires occur in December and 37% in January.

In January 2015, a 15-foot dry Christmas tree fueled a massive mansion fire that killed a Maryland couple and their four young grandchildren. Sadly, the family had planned to remove the tree from the house the day after the fire. Instead, the dried-out tree fueled a fire that spread so quickly the family couldn’t escape.

Tips To Avoid Fires

To avoid Christmas tree fires, the NFPA recommends the following:

  • Make sure string lights have no loose connections, cracked lamps or frayed cords.
  • Your Christmas tree extension cord should reach your home’s outlet without being too long or being tangled.
  • Use UL-approved lights and cords.
  • Make sure lights are off when you go out and before you turn in for the night.
  • Make sure all outdoor light connectors are away from metal rain gutters and off the ground.
  • Never use candles to light or decorate a tree.
  • To lessen the chance of a fire hazard, purchase a freshly cut tree.
  • Make sure to keep your tree at least three feet away from any heat source.
  • Water the tree every day, and remove it from your home after Christmas or once it becomes dry.
  • Don’t burn Christmas tree branches or wrapping paper in your fireplace.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that could burn.

To add and expand to these tips, always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. Make an escape plan for your family so you’re prepared in an emergency. Your regular fire escape plans could be significantly different if, for example, your tree is near the front door. With all of the new obstacles (decorations) during the holiday season, we recommend practicing your escape route to make sure everyone can get out safely if there is a fire.

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Real Vs Artificial Christmas Trees

Are artificial trees safer than a natural tree? Underwriters Laboratories Inc. recently found some pre-lit artificial trees can be as much as a fire hazard in your home as a dry tree. No matter which you choose, both have the potential for causing fires.

Artificial Tree
People who have artificial trees should be just as careful as those who have real trees, especially when using things like candles. The raw materials that are used are byproducts of petroleum, polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Look for flame-resistant artificial trees as these don’t ignite as easily.

Another hazard of artificial Christmas trees is the chemicals used to manufacture them. The average life span of an artificial tree is about six years. As they are assemble year after year, the plastic degrades and particles of dust containing lead and arsenic float in the air.  This highly flammable and poisonous dust lands on the packages and gifts that wait under the tree for Christmas day.

Inspect the wiring of pre-lit artificial trees. Every time you bend and fold the wiring to assemble the tree, the wiring breaks down a little more.  Statistics have shown that the risk of sparks, fires, and shocks increase each year the tree is used.

Real Trees
Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2″ from the base of the trunk. This opens up the tree and allows it to suck water into the trunk. And don’t forget to fill the stand with water.

Be sure to add water to the stand daily and use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Cheap lights can be deadly.

For Both Real And Artificial Trees

Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat or flame source and is not blocking an exit.

Lighting Your Home

Make sure there are no frayed wires in the light strands,  always replace any lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum number of light strands to connect and don’t exceed it.

Count how many lights you combine. One common hazard we often hear about is people will hook too many strands into one another. This can cause the wires to heat up, especially if someone has older wiring in their walls that cannot handle such a large load resulting in the strand catching fire or even igniting a fire inside your walls.

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Never try to hide an extension cord under a rug. The cord can became damaged and spark a slow smoldering fire. That fire can go undetected, until it’s too late.

Consider LED Christmas lights because they are more energy efficient and do not get very hot at all.  Also, never ever use lit candles to decorate your tree. It might be an old tradition but it’s also a deadly one.

Christmas Tree Fires Happen Often In Dry, Old Trees

Ideally real trees should only be kept for four weeks. Don’t procrastinate after Christmas, get rid of the tree after it’s served its purpose. Dried-out trees are a much greater fire danger. Don’t leave an old tree in your home or garage, or placed outside near the home either. It’s also a good idea to take up your outdoor lights after the holidays to keep the weather from degrading them, this helps prevent hazards and makes them last longer.

Watering Your Tree

If you’re inclined to keep your tree up after the 25th, keep it watered and it’s best to water it every single day from the start. Christmas tree fires can turn deadly within seconds. It only takes five seconds for a live tree that’s dried out to become fully engulfed and in just 30 seconds the entire room will be full of flames and smoke.

Christmas trees are a significant fire load that we are adding into our homes, and then we’re not properly caring for them. It’s like putting a can of gasoline in our living rooms and forgetting all about it. It’s no wonder why they are so deadly.

Unwatered Christmas trees are a huge fire hazard, as this video from the NFPA clearly shows. The second tree in the video was re-cut immediately before going into the tree stand and was watered daily. As you can see the differences are night and day.

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