It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The smell of pine needles in the air, twinkling lights on every tree, and families gathered around the fireplace… what could be more festive? Oh, right. A raging inferno where your once-towering Christmas tree used to be. That’s definitely not as fun.
Okay, maybe that’s a tad bit dramatic. But the truth is, live Christmas tree fires are no joke. Christmas trees are beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. But did you know that they’re also highly flammable? Every year, houses catch fire because of careless holiday decorating. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments respond to an annual average of 210 structure fires that are started by home Christmas tree fires every year in the United States.
Christmas Tree Fire Safety Tips
But don’t worry, we’re here to help make sure your home is safe this season. With a few simple fire safety tips, you can keep your tree from going up in flames and ensure that everyone has a happy holiday season.
Check Your Plugs
Christmas tree fires are often caused by electrical problems. If you have any loose or damaged plugs or wires, it’s best to replace them before putting up your tree. Also, be sure not to overload your circuits by plugging in too many devices at once. If you’re not sure whether or not your outlets can handle the load, err on the side of caution and plug in fewer devices. Better safe than sorry!
Check Your Alarm
- Check that your home’s smoke alarms are in good working order.
- Consider getting a smoke alarm for your Christmas tree.
Pick The Right Tree
If you’re going to have a live tree in your home, make sure you pick one that’s fresh. A fresh tree is green, has flexible needles, and feels heavy for its size. If you can bounce back a fresh cut by more than an inch and the needles fall off easily when you run your hand along a branch, it’s time to find a new tree. We’ve got a complete guide on picking the perfect Christmas tree.
Don’t Block The Exits
Once you’ve found the perfect tree, set it up away from exits so that if a fire does start, you and your family will be able to escape safely.
Place The Tree Away From Heat Sources
Heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, heating vents, candles, and even televisions can dry out your tree quickly and make it more likely to create a fire risk. Make sure that there are no heat sources close to the tree.
Keep It Watered
A well-watered tree is a safe tree.
- Cut off two inches from the base of the trunk before you put it in the stand. This will help the tree absorb water better so that it doesn’t dry out as quickly.
- A dry tree is a dangerous tree. Put your tree in a stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water and keep it filled so that the water level never goes below the cut end of the trunk.
- Make sure to check your tree’s water level every day and top it off as needed. If the water starts to turn brown, that means the tree is drying out and needs to be replaced immediately. Set up a schedule for adding water so that you don’t forget; a good rule of thumb is 1 quart for every inch of trunk diameter (i.e., a 3-inch diameter trunk requires 3 quarts of water).
Use LED Lights
LED lights may cost a little bit more upfront, but they use less electricity and generate less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs—making them safer for your home (and better for the environment). Plus, they’ll last longer so you won’t have to replace them as often. Win-win!
Decorating For Safety
- Use only non-combustible or flame-retardant decorations on your tree. And avoid using real candles (even if they’re battery-operated).
- Make sure your Christmas tree lights are intended for indoor use.
- When decorating your tree with decorative lights and other Christmas decorations, be mindful of their placement so as not to overload any circuits or create trip hazards in your home.
- Use lighting equipment with smaller bulbs. Bigger bulbs are a heat source, and they make your tree dry out quicker.
- Broken bulbs should be removed immediately.
- Extension cords should only be used temporarily, and they should never be overloaded.
- Consider upgrading your home’s electrical system if it can’t handle the additional load of holiday lights and decorations.
- Don’t leave your home with the Christmas lights on. And make sure to turn them off before you go to bed at night. And when it comes to stringing lights, make sure you’re using lights that have been certified by an independent testing laboratory.
- An unattended candle can be another cause of a Christmas tree fire. If you like to decorate your tree with scented candles or flameless LED candles, be sure to blow them out before leaving the room—and never leave them unattended overnight. Also, be careful not to place candles too close to your tree or other combustible objects.
- Consider getting an artificial tree to spare your house from the risk of a fire. However, artificial trees need to be kept away from heat sources and the same precautions should be taken for fire safety, except for the watering, of course. When storing a fake tree, ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for its care.
Get Rid Of Your Tree Promptly
When it’s time to take down your tree, dispose of it promptly so that it doesn’t become a fire hazard in your home or yard. The safest way to dispose of a live tree is to take it to a recycling center or place it curbside for pickup on your regular trash day—just make sure it’s not blocking any walkways or street access.
This holiday season, don’t let a fire ruin all the fun! By following these simple home fire prevention tips—from choosing a fresh Christmas tree to keeping it well-watered—you can prevent fires in your home and keep your family safe. And remember, if you ever have any doubt about whether your tree is fresh or dry enough to be safe, err on the side of caution and get rid of it—a new one is always cheaper than repairing fire damage! Merry Christmas!