Christmas Trees and Fire Safety

No one wants to spoil the holiday season, but Christmas trees in the home can present a fire safety issue. A primary concern with a Christmas tree is fire danger, often brought on by the combination of electrical malfunctions and, in the case of a real tree, a drying tree.

According to a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report, U.S. fire departments responded to more than 200 home structure fires annually from 2002 to 2005 that began with Christmas trees. Each year fires occurring during the holiday season injure 2,600 individuals and cause over $930 million in damage, according to the United States Fire Administration.

Electrical failures or malfunctions were involved in nearly half of the fires, while nearly a quarter occurred because a heat source was located too close to the tree. Decorative lights with live voltage were involved in more than 20 percent of the instances.

Electrical malfunctions can also ignite artificial trees and homeowners should take the same precautions in terms of tree placement and decorations as they would with a real tree.

Additionally, in the same three-year period, an annual average of 90 outside and other non-structure fires on home properties occurred because of Christmas trees stored on the property, the report indicates. Two-thirds of these fires occurred in January, with 64 percent of them being set intentionally. This suggests that discarded Christmas trees may be an attractive target for arsonists.

According to the NFPA even a well-watered tree should be taken down after four weeks. If you decorated your real tree right after Thanksgiving, it should be discarded the week after Christmas, not New Year’s Day.

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