Christmas Tree Fire Safety Tips

he most joyous of times can also be deadly, especially during the Christmas season.  Christmas trees are involved in approximately 400 fires annually, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), typically resulting in moore than a dozen deaths, dozens of injuries and more than $10 million in property loss and damage.  Shortcircuiting tree lights are cited as the leading cause of fires.

As the holidays approach, the Fire Department offers these safety tips for choosing and preparing Christmas trees for decorating that will minimize the risk of fire and injuries.

  • If your buying an artificial tree, it should bear the “Fire Resistant” label.  While this type of tree can catch fire, it will resist burning and extinguish quickly.
  • If you’re buying a natural tree, buy the freshest you can find.  A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break.  The trunk butt is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • Watch out for trees with a greenish cast to their trunks and branches; many growers spray trees with green paint to make them look more appealing.  Cut at least one inch off the trunks base to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.  A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter.  A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if water drops below the base of the tree, preventing the tree from absorbing water later when the tree stand is refilled.  If a seal does form, another fresh cut will need to be made.
  • To maximize freshness and minimize fire risk, keep the tree outdoors for a few days in a bucket filled with water before bringing it indoors to decorate.  The tree stand should hold at least one gallon of water.
  • Because heated rooms dry out natural trees quickly, keep the stand filled with water and check the water level daily.
    A six-foot tree will absorb one gallon of water every two days.
  • Remove any needles that have dropped and are either in the water or near electrical connections.
  • Take care with the placement and maintenance of any lights that you use in your Christmas tree.  Be sure that you have not replaced any old bulbs and that you are not overloading your electrical system by using too many light sets on any one plug or extension unit that is powering Christmas tree lights.

Make sure you designate a person in your house to be responsible for checking water daily.  When you have chosen that person, make sure you also check the tree daily.

TURN OFF your Christmas tree lights in the evening before you go to bed or purchase a timer to automatically switch the lights off.