Gone in 30 seconds

  • Published
  • By Harold Sterne
  • March Fire Department
A carefully decorated Christmas tree can help make your holidays safer. A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can very quickly become large. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), facts and figures: 

·Christmas trees were the items first ignited in an estimated average of 310 reported U.S. home structure fires per year in 1999-2002. These fires caused an average of 14 civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage per year. These statistics include both real and artificial trees. 

·On average, one in every 22 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death. 

·More than four of every ten home Christmas tree fires are caused by an electrical Problem or malfunction. One in four (24%) home Christmas tree fires resulted from a heat source placed too close to the tree. Seven percent were started by children playing with fire. 

·When equipment was involved in the ignition of the fire, lamps, bulbs or lighting (18%), and cords or plugs (13%) were cited more often than any other type of equipment. No equipment was involved in 44% of these fires. 

·Candles were the heat source in 8% of the home Christmas tree fires per year between 1999 and 2002. 

·Sixty-one percent of the home Christmas tree fires were reported in December, 22% were reported in January. Not surprisingly, the number of these fires spikes during the week of December 22-28. 

Ten tips for making your Christmas tree fire-safe

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 to not 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.