Every year, Christmas trees start fires. While these fires aren’t common, they tend to be very serious, resulting in costly damage, property loss and even loss of life.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas tree fires between 2013 and 2017 caused an annual average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage in the United States.
Typically, electrical problems or a heat source too close to the tree is the culprit. But these accidents are usually preventable when you take the proper precautions.
Minimize the chances of a Christmas tree-related fire in your home with the following 10 tips.
1. Select the safest tree possible.
When you purchase a live tree, choose a fresh tree with springy green needles that stay put when the tree is touched or gently shaken. Look at the cut end of the trunk, too – it should be sticky and resinous, not dried out.
If you’re buying an artificial tree, make sure it comes with a label marked “fire-resistant.” Even though this doesn’t mean the tree is 100% fire-proof, it’s still a worthwhile safety indicator.
2. Place the tree in a safe spot.
Place your tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, TV sets or hot lights, and don’t block any exits with it.
3. Make sure the tree is topple-proof.
Secure the tree in a sturdy tree stand with widely spaced feet for stability. Secure by looping twine or fishing line around the trunk and tying to screws in the wall. A well-secured tree is particularly important if you have pets or small children around.
4. Water the tree regularly.
Make sure your tree stand has a large water reservoir and be sure to add water daily. A dried-out tree is a huge fire risk.
5. Light the tree safely.
Use UL-approved lights, and don’t overload your outlets or string together more lights than recommended by the manufacturer.
Check all light strings for signs of wear, blackened sockets or exposed wires and throw away damaged strings. Make sure all bulb sockets have bulbs in them to prevent electrical shocks or the possibility of a fire. And run lighting cords along walls, not under rugs, to prevent overheating.
6. Keep gifts away from heat.
Wrapping paper and boxes are extremely flammable. Make sure you don’t place gifts near open flames or electrical connections. Gift should not be touching any lights or electrical ornaments.
7. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
Make sure every family member knows how to use it in case of emergency.
8. Check the batteries in your smoke detectors and replace if necessary.
Test your smoke alarms regularly, and run fire safety drills with your family.
9. Turn off the tree lights before you leave the house or go to bed.
Even LED lights can overheat and, combined with a dry Christmas tree, cause a fire. To make it safer, purchase a timer for your tree lights. You can also buy a wireless control to shut off your lights through an app on your phone.
10. Dispose of your tree properly and promptly.
Remove the tree from your home before it dries out. Carefully remove all decorations and find a tree recycling program near you. Don’t leave the tree in your garage or leaning against your home.
Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace. Needles burn quickly and intensely, which can lead them to flare up and burn out of control.
Protect your home
In the excitement of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget safety. Both real and artificial trees are susceptible to fire, especially when strung with lights. Keep these 10 simple tips in mind to protect your home and loved ones.