12/09/10 According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), while Christmas tree fires are not common, they are likely to be serious when they occur. Between 2003 – 2007, the NFPA found that one out of every 18 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in death.
“For a great number of Hoosiers, putting up and decorating a Christmas tree is an annual holiday tradition,” says Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson. “Families can help keep this a joyful tradition every year by making sure their Christmas tree is carefully selected and properly cared for to reduce any fire risks.”
The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office is a division of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Selecting a Tree
- When buying a live Christmas tree, choose the freshest tree possible. Harvest your own at a Christmas tree farm, or select a freshly cut tree that hasn’t been on the sales lot very long.
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- If you choose an artificial tree, be sure it is identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
Placing the Tree
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1-2 inches from the base of the trunk.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source (heat vent, fireplace, space heater, etc.). The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
- Keep ash-trays away from the tree and be careful not to drop cigarette ashes near a tree.
- Make sure the tree does not block an exit.
- Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. Add water daily to the tree stand. Live Christmas trees dry out quickly once they’re brought into a home. A dry Christmas tree can quickly go up in flames.
- Do not keep a live tree in your home for longer than two weeks.
Lighting the Tree
- Never use candles to decorate a tree, and keep all candles away from the tree, garland, and other decorations.
- Use Christmas lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory.
- Some lights are either for indoor or outdoor use only, while some may be used in either location. Make sure the lights you are using are appropriate for the venue.
- Replace any strings of lights that have worn or broken cords or broken bulbs.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights when leaving home or going to bed.
- Do not link more than three light strands together, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
- Periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch. If they do feel warm, replace them.