The tradition of decorating Christmas trees and homes with holiday lights can increase the chances of fires and deaths, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Nearly 33 million Americans celebrate the holiday season with a Christmas tree, and when they are not properly cared for they run the risk of catching on fire. The U.S. Fire Administration reports Christmas trees account for nearly 240 fires and holiday lights spark another 150 fires, resulting in 21 deaths and about $25.2 million in property damage each year.
Fire officials say a dry Christmas tree can become fully engulfed in flames in less than five seconds, and the flames can quickly spread to surrounding furniture and structures. Therefore, in addition to keeping the tree well-hydrated, fire officials recommend these precautions:
- Do not place your tree close to a heat source, especially a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
- If smoking is allowed in your home, be sure not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near the Christmas tree.
- Make sure the Christmas tree stand is always filled with water.
- Keep lighted candles, lighters and matches away from the tree.
- Christmas trees should not block an exit way.
- Only use indoor lights inside the house (and only outdoor lights outside). Look for the UL label.
- Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
- Replace or repair any damaged light sets.
- Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs.
- Turn off all lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
To see how fast a dry Christmas tree can go up in flames, watch this video.