A Woeful Tale . . .
The home, friends said, looked like a castle. It burned for four days.
The six members of the family inside, including four grandchildren, were not able to escape the fire in January of this year.
Most likely an electrical spark set a Christmas tree on fire. The tree had been cut at least two months prior.
As we move into and through the holiday season, a house fire is the last thing on our minds. While only several hundred home fires involving Christmas trees occur each year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says fires involving Christmas trees can be very deadly and cost millions of dollars each year.
If a Christmas tree is not watered daily or is allowed to dry out, it can literally explode in flames if exposed to a spark or heat source.
Leading causes of Christmas tree fires (per NFPA)
Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 38% of home Christmas tree fires.
· Eighteen percent of home Christmas tree fires involved decorative lights.
· Wiring or related equipment was involved in 12%.
· Cords or plugs were involved in 5%.
Twenty-two percent of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
· Only 9% of the intentional fires occurred in December.
Nine percent of Christmas tree fires were started by someone, usually a child, playing with fire.
Candles started 8% of home Christmas tree structure fires.
Leading areas of origin
Two of every five (39%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
Seven percent were chimney fires.
What You Can Do
The good news is that these type of fires continue to trend downward. They are almost becoming rare, but still can be a hazard, if precautions are not taken. Here’s what to do to protect your castle:
- Keep fresh cut trees well watered (not necessary for artificial trees).
- Check your Christmas electrical cords and lighting. Look for frays and cuts in the insulation and exposed wires. Replace bad wiring and bad extension cords.
- Don’t overload electrical outlets.
- Do not connect more than three light strings together.
- Do not overload extension cords. If the cord becomes warm when in use, it is overloaded. Don’t run the extension cords under rugs (especially a Christmas tree skirt) or furniture as they might become a fire hazard. Secure cords so they don’t become trip hazards.
- Only use lights with the Underwriters Laboratories Approved or UL Approved designations. These lights go through thorough testing procedures to ensure they are safe to use in or outside your home. In that vein, only use outdoor lights out of doors as they need to meet higher levels of certification.
- Don’t place a tree near a working fire place or fire pit or other heat source as a space heater.
- Don’t leave a lot of wrapping paper or empty packages near the tree when the presents are unwrapped. This contributed to 30 fires (and 2 deaths) last year.
- When disposing of the Christmas tree, never attempt to burn it in the fire place.
- Consider installing a sprinkler system in your home.
Another safety tip is to never attempt to fight a Christmas tree fire. This is considered a major mistake by firefighting experts. Safety of friends and family should be our number one concern. Get everyone out and then call 911.
With that, here’s hoping you have a happy and healthy holiday season.
Thank you for reading this.