By Steve Heiden
Look for freshness when choosing a tree.
Each year, U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 230 home structure fires that start with Christmas trees. Home Christmas tree fires cause an average of six deaths, 22 injuries and more than $18 million in direct property damage annually, and the danger can extend beyond Christmas.
According to a November 2015 report on Christmas tree fires by the National Fire Protection Association, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death. Nationally, an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires occurs – meaning fires that start with a Christmas tree are more than three times as likely to result in a fatality.
Electrical failures or malfunctions are involved in nearly one-third (32 percent) of home Christmas tree structure fires. Decorative lights are involved in 12 percent of these incidents. Seven percent of home Christmas tree fires were started by candles.
Home Christmas tree fires are about equally likely to occur in December (44 percent) and January (37 percent), the NFPA found, with the 10 dates with the largest shares of home Christmas tree structure fires occurring after Christmas.
To prevent a Christmas tree fire and holiday injuries in your home:
- Check the tree for freshness when you buy it, and inspect it daily for signs of aging. A fresh tree is green. Its needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, a fresh tree should not lose many needles.
- Keep the tree stand filled with water.
- Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways and exits with the tree.
- Place live trees away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, monitor water levels daily. A heat source too close to the tree causes one in six (16 percent) Christmas tree fires.
- Use tree lights that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Lights for both indoor and outdoor use must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify. UL’s red holographic label signifies the lights meet safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies the light meets …read more
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