Saturday, 04 February 2023

Protect yourself from Christmas tree fire danger

LAKE COUNTY – During the winter holiday season, homeowners must be aware of the increased fire hazards present in their homes during this festive time of year.


Fire dangers increase throughout the home during the holiday season. Many homes are decorated with seasonal garlands, electric lights, candles, banners or displays.


Probably the most popular addition to the home during the holiday season, and a significant fire hazard, is the Christmas tree. Dried-out fir and pine Christmas trees ignite easily and can accelerate fire growth by spreading rapidly to nearby combustible materials in the home.


This happens because as the winter holiday season progresses, live or cut Christmas trees and greens will eventually die. As plants die, they dry out and become more combustible.


Statistically speaking, each year in the United States, more than 200 residential structure fires occur where Christmas trees are the material first ignited. I have been a firefighter for a long time and it seems like every year, we respond to a fire involving a Christmas tree.


Sometimes these fires are devastating and destroy the entire home. Other times the fire is relatively minor and only involve the tree and the contents of the room, including new gifts and presents. Shortening the time the tree is in the home and keeping the tree watered can prevent some of these fires.


Here are some other Christmas tree safety suggestions.


  • When purchasing a live or cut tree, check for fresh, green needles. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles. The use of fire-retardant artificial Christmas trees will also reduce the chance of tree fires in residences.

  • Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over. Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily.

  • Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an electrical outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.

  • When decorating Christmas trees, always use safe tree lights. (Some lights are designed only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.) 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.

  • Check your strands of lights to determine the number of strands that may be connected. Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and place them well away from tree branches. Never use electric lights on a metal tree.

  • 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.


All of us in Lake County must be aware of the increased fire hazards present in their homes during this festive time of year. During the holiday season, as fire danger inside a home increases, efforts should be made to make your home fire-safe. Especially tragic are those fires caused by Christmas tree decorations.


So please, be careful, and be safe. We don’t want any tragic fires this holiday season.


For more information visit the United States Fire Administration at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfdc/tfrs.htm.


Robert MacIntyre is a firefighter and a member of the South Lake County Fire District Board of Directors. He lives in Hidden Valley Lake.


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