Each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injuring 1,650 more, and cause over $900 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA) , there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday season. Christmas tree fires typically result from shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters, or matches. Well-watered trees are not a problem, butdry and neglected trees can be. By following some of these precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Christmas Tree Selection
- Make sure the needles on the tree are fresh; they should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. If the tree is freshly cut, the needles should not break easily.
- The tree trunk should be sticky to the touch.
- Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many of the needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and has probably dried out. This can create a fire hazard.
Christmas Tree Care
- Do not place your Christmas tree close to a heat source; a fire place, heat vent, or other heating devices.
- Heat dries out Christmas trees and will cause it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame, or sparks.
- Be very careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
- Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
- Keep your Christmas tree stand filled with water at all times.
Christmas Tree Disposal
- Never place your tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
- When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
- The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service (in the city limits, there will be designated tree pickup days).
10 Christmas Tree Fire-Safe Tips
1. When decorating your tree, always use lights listed by a testing laboratory. Some lights are designed only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Larger tree lights should also have some type of reflector rather than a bare bulb.
2. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use tree lights. Any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used. Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
3. Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
4. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life.
5. Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and make sure any lit candles in the room are placed well away from tree branches.
6. Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles. Check for fresh, green needles. And place your tree in a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
7. If you purchase an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.
8. Children are fascinated with Christmas trees. Keep a watchful eye on them when around the tree and do not let them play with the wiring or lights. Store matches and lighters up high, out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
9. Make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.
10. Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.
- Maintain Your Holiday Lights. Before putting them up, inspect each year for
- frayed wires
- Bare spots
- Gaps in the insulation
- Broken or cracked sockets
- Excessive kinking or wear
- Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
- Do not link more than three light strands.
- Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
- Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
- Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended
- Use Only Nonflammable Decorations.
- All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents or heating devices.
- Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace.
- It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
- Artificial Christmas Trees.
- If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Use Care With Candles
December is the peak month for candle fires, with nearly twice the average number of incidents. On a national average 44% of reported candle fires in the home started in the bedroom.
- Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Keep candles away from items that can catch fire.
- Keep candlewicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material.
- Votives and containers should be extinguished before the last half-inch of wax starts to melt.
- Avoid Using Lit Candles
- If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.
- Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Do not place lit candles in windows, where blinds and curtains can close over them.
- Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
- Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.
Finally, as in every season of the year, you should have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home. The smoke alarms should be tested monthly and kept clean. Also have your smoke alarms equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. Always remember to practice your fire escape plan.