How to prevent Christmas trees from becoming a fire hazard

Updated Dec 13, 2018
Live Christmas trees that are dried out pose a fire hazard. Always keep live trees well-hydrated. Photo: atlanticalarmnj.comLive Christmas trees that are dried out pose a fire hazard. Always keep live trees well-hydrated. 
Photo: atlanticalarmnj.com

Everyone has an opinion on real or artificial Christmas trees and each has his or her reasons as to why one or the other is better. However, no matter which side of that debate you support, there are some safety tips to keep in mind when trimming the tree.

If selling real Christmas trees is part of your winter business, here are some tips you should pass along to your customers this season.

Check for bugs

When the weather is abnormally warm, the likelihood of ticks or mites being found on Christmas tree branches increases.

Advise customers to shake out their trees before placing them inside if the snow and cold temperatures that normally clear the trees of insects has yet to materialize in your region of the country. They can even hose the tree down if they’re willing to wait for it to dry.

According to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, “Warm temperatures, low humidities and and a lack of appropriate food conditions typical of most homes will usually kill these invaders in a short time.”

Caution your clients not to resort to insect sprays, as they are flammable and could cause the tree to catch fire.

Prevent fires

Of course, there are other ways for a Christmas tree to catch fire aside from dousing it in bug spray. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 210 homes had fires that started with Christmas trees from 2009 to 2013.

The leading cause for holiday fires is electrical failures with tree lights. Be sure not to connect more than three strands of mini-strings or have more than 50 screw-in bulbs.

It is crucial to keep live trees well-hydrated. A dry tree not only can catch fire but will burn faster than newspaper.

“People go away, they forget about it and they just don’t keep the water in it, and this is what happens,” fire chief John Brown told CBS New York.  “And the lights aren’t maintained, they’re not UL approved, they’re all rolled up, put away, taken out again and there’s cracks, dried out from the wiring, so that’s the problems that we have.”

Always unplug Christmas tree lights before going to sleep or leaving the house. Never use lit candles on trees and keep them – or any open flame – a safe distance away from branches. Keep trees 3 feet away from heat sources and exits.

And remember: even if artificial trees are labeled as fire-retardant, they can still end up catching fire from an overloaded electrical socket.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission made this video to show just how fast a dry tree can go up in flames.

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