Christmas Tree Fire Safety Tips

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree ... How dry are your branches?

There’s nothing quite like decorating a Christmas tree together during the holidays. But the tradition isn’t without a few risks.

Christmas tree fires

Every year, families are affected by the horrible aftermath of a fire resulting from decorative holiday lighting. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the 230 Christmas tree fires reported every year kill an average of six people, injure 22 and cause $18.3 million in property damage.

Christmas tree fires and how to avoid them

Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they happen, they are unusually more serious than other home fires. The NFPA says one in 40 Christmas tree fires result in a death, compared with one in 142 for total home fires.

The cause of Christmas tree fires include:

  • 32% electrical failures or malfunctions
  • 17% heat source close to tree
  • 12% decorative lights on line voltage
  • 7% by candles

The NFPA also says that whereas dry natural trees can burn easily, trees that have been kept moist are "unlikely to catch fire unintentionally."

Holiday light fires

Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 150 home structure fires per year in this same period. These fires caused an average of nine deaths, 16 injuries, and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year.

To avoid trouble this holiday season, keep these helpful Christmas tree fire safety tips in mind:

  • Keep it out of the way. Do not place your tree near doors or exits.
  • Water, water, water. Natural trees should be cut at a 45 degree angle at the base and placed in water. Make sure to water it regularly so it doesn’t dry out and increase the risk of a fire hazard. Watch a demonstration.
  • Decorate wisely. Use only non-flammable decorations.
  • Keep heat away. Make sure your tree is at least three feet away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles or heat vents.
  • Check ‘em. If you have older lights that have been in storage for a year, examine the wiring and bulb sockets before use. Own a pre-lit tree? Take some time to examine the lights and the wiring before setting it up.
  • Don’t overload sockets. Connect a maximum of three strands of lights together at any given time and avoid using extension cords if possible.
  • Turn ‘em off. Try not to keep your lights on longer than necessary. Use a timer or turn them off before you go to sleep in the evening to lessen the fire hazard and save some money on your electricity bill.
  • Enjoy it, then toss it. Try not to put your tree up too early or leave it up too long. Once you are done with it, check with your local authorities to see what the tree disposal process is for your community.

The holidays are meant to be a fun time with family and friends—not fire. Wishing you and yours and a joyful—and fire-free—holiday season.