Fire Safety for the Holidays

More than 33 million American homes have a natural tree for the holidays. Nothing compares to the fragrant scent a natural tree provides. The scent and atmosphere provided by a natural Christmas trees brings back cherished memories of Christmases past.

Choosing a Christmas tree

If you are cutting down your own tree at a Christmas tree farm, you know how fresh the tree is. If you choose a tree at a local Christmas tree lot or a nursery lot, you need to choose a fresh tree by looking for the greenest tree with the fewest brown needles; however, many shipped-to-lot trees have been colored prior to shipping. This is a common practice and will not negatively affect a tree’s freshness.

  • Perform the “drop test”.  Raise the Christmas tree a few inches and drop on the stump end.  Fresh, green needles should not drop off. Take hold of a branch and lightly pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers.  Most, if not all of the needles, need to stay in place. The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
  • Inspect the tree’s base. Make sure the “handle” or (first eight inches of the stump) is relatively straight. This part of the tree is extremely important when securing the tree in a stand.

Keeping your Christmas tree fresh:  Water, Water, Water

  • Refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking one inch off the bottom of the stump and immediately place in water. This will improve water uptake.
  • Place the tree in a stand that can hold at least 1 gallon of water. Expect the tree to take up additional water.  Water tree until water uptake stops.
  • Always keep the base of the tree in water.  If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will dry out quickly. You don’t need to add anything to regular tap water. Research has shown that plain old water will keep a tree fresh; no additives are necessary.

Christmas tree fire hazards:

  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent.  The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not have lit candles near the tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Inspect Christmas tree lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them on the tree.  Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect lights to a power strip equipped with a circuit breaker and surge protection. If you are building a new home or remodeling, determine the most likely spot for your Christmas tree and install a switched outlet.  No more crawling behind the tree to turn on Christmas tree lights!
  • Do not leave holiday lights on unattended or overnight.
  • All tree decorations should be non flammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.

Dry, under-watered trees Christmas trees account for 200 fires annually, resulting in 6 deaths, 25 injuries and more than $6 million in property damage. (U.S. Fire Administration) The most common causes of tree fires are shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles. Well-watered trees are not a problem, the drier the tree is, the more likely it is to catch on fire. Follow the precautions and have a safe and happy holiday


3 Responses to “Fire Safety for the Holidays”

  1. It’s important to adhere to fire safety procedures on the tree, especially as it’s a good idea to leave lights on when you are out to deter burglars.

    And don’t forget the circuit breaker.

  2. First let me say thank you for your great post and second Cutting down our own christmas tree has been a family tradition for years in my family. We go the first week end of December and we go to the farm as a family. My brothers bring their families and we all get our trees together.
    After cutting our tree down we go and get nice and warm with hot chocolate and candy canes. What a perfect way to spend a cold snowy day in December with family!

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