Homeowner's Academy

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Safety Tips to Avoid Christmas Tree Fires

by BROOKE GOLD HASSON | Nov 13, 2014

ChristmasTree_Fireplace-300x199Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… neighborhood luminaries… burning Yule logs… these are some of the most enduring images of Christmas time, maybe second only to that of the perfectly decorated tree. 

To many, the Christmas tree represents a personal, evolving scrapbook of family history. Ornaments gathered from vacations, gifts, and childhood arts and crafts adorn the annual tree with silent calls to remember the things that matter most.

Just as ornaments in some ways serve to protect these memories, proper care of a Christmas tree helps to ensure the protection of everyone in your home.

Christmas trees are responsible for hundreds of home fires each year, often resulting in injury and even death. As if the human toll wasn’t enough, these fires lead to over $18 million in direct property damage — a figure that can never account for the priceless losses of personal, sentimental belongings.

Sadly, fires emanating from Christmas trees result in a greater loss of life than fires due to other causes. On average, one death is reported for every 142 home fires. Comparably, this is the case for one out of every 40 home fires that began with a Christmas tree.

A closer look at the causes of Christmas tree fires suggests a number of remedies that may decrease the likelihood of such a disaster.

  • 32%: Electrical failures or malfunctions
  • 17%: Heat source too close to the tree
  • 12%: Decorative lights on line voltage
  • 7%: Candles

While many features of Christmas tree safety are intuitive, it is important to revisit this checklist each year:

  • Always leave adequate space between the tree and any other structure – even if that means selecting a smaller tree. Be especially careful to keep distance between your tree and fireplaces, radiators, candles, or other heat sources.
  • Make sure that the lighting you select is a good match for the power source’s voltage and the line you use to string them. In part, this means always using lights that are meant for indoor use.
  • Never, ever place a candle on a tree. There are plenty of flameless light ornaments that can satisfy this look.
  • Replace loose or broken lights, and always turn the tree lights off when leaving your home or going to bed.
  • Make sure your kids or pets refrain from playing with power sources, lights or cords.

If you select a live tree, these additional tips are important too:

  • Look for a tree that has fresh, green needles. If the needles are brown or brittle, keep looking.
  • Add water to the tree stand every day.
  • Dispose of your tree as soon as the needles are dried out. These should not be left inside or near your home.

Many of these same guidelines apply to the use of decorative lights other than on Christmas trees. In fact, an average of 150 home fires are reported annually due to decorative lighting with line voltage. These fires are responsible for about nine deaths and $8.4 million in property damage each year.

It is important to note that fires are not the only cause of personal or home damage during the holidays. About 5,800 people visit the emergency room every year after falling while decorating. Greater than half of these injuries occur during outdoor decorating, such as falling off a ladder or roof. Falls from furniture inside the home account for about 11 percent of injuries.

Stay safe and enjoy the festive holiday season, from your friends at People’s Trust!