Every year, about 210 home fires start with a Christmas tree, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. One-third of these fires results from an electrical problem, says the U.S. Fire Administration. That twinkling symbol of holiday joy could end up causing you tremendous loss, unless you follow steps to prevent a Christmas tree fire.
- Choose a fresh tree that isn’t on the verge of drying out. Rub your hand along a branch. If the tree is fresh, the needles will stay where they are. If not, you’ll end up with a handful, indicating that tree is not going to last through the holidays.
- Set up the tree at least three feet from any heat source that could spark a fire, such as a radiator, fireplace, vent, wall sconce, lamp, or candles.
- Cut off about two inches from the bottom of the tree’s stump so that it will better absorb the water it needs to remain fresh.
- Fill the tree stand with water every day. During the first few days, the tree will soak up a lot of water.
- Use only UL-certified strings of lights (and extension cords, if needed). Make sure the cords are not frayed, cracked, or damaged. Check for loose connections or broken light sockets.
- Avoid overloading your extension cord. Limit your use to three strings of lights per extension cord.
- Don’t leave on the tree’s lights when you’re away from home or going to bed. Either turn them off or unplug them altogether.
- After the holidays, remove all electrical lights before taking the tree outside. Don’t store a dry tree in your garage or basement. Place it outside, away from the house until you can recycle or otherwise safely dispose of it.
If you choose an artificial Christmas tree, choose one that is specifically identified as “flame retardant”. Check the lights to be sure they are UL-listed and the cords aren’t twisted.
Everyone in your home will enjoy the holidays even more when you put safety first.