By Michael Campbell
Your beautifully decorated Christmas tree can also be a deadly fire hazard. Christmas tree fires are infrequent, but when they do occur, they are serious, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Fire departments across the U.S. respond to an average of 230 home fires caused by Christmas trees each year. These fires result in an average of six deaths, 22 injuries and $18.3 million in property damage, the National Fire Protection Association reported.
Here is a list of holiday fire safety tips from NFPA and FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration:
1. When choosing a tree, look for one that is fresh and has green needles that don’t fall out. Brownish needles mean the tree is dried out and more prone to catch fire.
2. Water your tree daily to prevent it from drying out.
3. Check the manufacturer’s labels to ensure you use only lights and decorations that are flame-retardant. Look for a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek or the Canadian Standards Association, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
4. Check holiday lights for frayed wires or excessive wear.
5. Don’t connect more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
6. Keep your tree at least three feet away from any heat source, such as a fireplace, radiator, candles or lights.
7. Make sure your tree is not blocking an exit. In case there is a fire, you want a way to get out.
8. Always turn off lights on a tree before going to bed or leaving your home.
9. Get rid of a tree when its needles start dropping. It means the tree is drying out.
10. Check that your smoke alarm is working properly.
A YouTube video published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology illustrates what can happen in 30 short seconds if you fail to properly water your tree. It can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_eHBqVYa8A.
For questions concerning fire safety, home safety, child safety seat inspections or our Juvenile Fire Setter program, call the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Prevention Section at 573.596.0886.
(Editor’s note: Campbell is a fire inspector with the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department.)