Holiday and Christmas Tree Fire Safety
Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and the ever popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy. Learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in your home. Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees. Help ensure that you have a fire safe holiday season.
What’s a traditional Christmas morning scene without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the sales person’s suggestion – “Keep the tree watered.”
Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.
Selecting a Tree for the Holidays
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be 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 the tree stand filled with water at all times.
Disposing of Your Tree
Never put 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.
New From Jake (2016):
With the arrival of the Christmas season comes some cherished family traditions. For many families, picking out and decorating the Christmas tree is one of the most beloved of those traditions.
Contrary to popular belief fresh cut Christmas trees are not a main cause of fire. In fact, fires involving Christmas trees represent only 1/10th of 1% of all residential fires.
However, while Christmas trees do not spontaneously ignite (most fires involving Christmas trees occur due to an electrical issue or being too close to a heat source, such as a candle, fireplace, woodstove, etc.), it is still worth taking the time to practice the following fire safety tips when it comes to selecting and caring for your Christmas tree:
- To pick out a fresh cut tree gently grab a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it towards you. Very few needles should fall off if the tree has been freshly cut. Shaking or bouncing the tree on the stump is another way to determine if the tree is fresh. While it is normal for a tree to lose some needles, you should not see an excessive amount on the ground.
- Before setting up the tree cut 1-2 inches from the base of the trunk to allow the tree to draw up more water after it is placed in the tree stand.
- Make sure the tree is stable and not easily knocked over by children or pets. The tree should also be at least three feet away from any heat source, such as radiators, fireplaces, woodstoves, etc.
- Once the tree is set up the most important thing to do is keep the tree well watered. While some people add aspirin, soda or commercially made products to the water, most experts say regular tap water is all you need to keep the tree fresh. If well watered a tree should be able to last until New Year’s Day.
- Since most fires involving Christmas trees occur due to faulty lights, make sure the lights you use are approved by Underwriter’s Laboratories and in good working order. Also, you should turn off the lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Fire Chief - Thomas E Higgins
289 Main Street, Bangor, ME 04401
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