The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services is urging consumers to water their Christmas tree daily and practice important safety measures to avoid fire risk and reduce the chance of a tragedy during the holiday season.
“A dry tree is extremely flammable compared to a well-watered tree,” said state fire marshal Richard Miller. “When a Christmas tree catches fire, you have only seconds to escape a potentially deadly fire --- don’t risk the loss of family, friends or your home.”
In 2006-2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees causing an average of four deaths, 21 injuries and $17.3 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average, one of every 18 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death compared to an average of one death per 141 total reported home fires.
“Statistics show that Christmas tree fires are much more likely to cause death than average home fires,” said Miller. “The risk of fire is higher with natural trees than artificial ones. And, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches are the most common causes of tree fires.”
Safety tips for selecting, setting up, and lighting your holiday tree include:
- If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled or certified by the manufacturer as fire retardant. This indicates the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- If selecting a “live” tree, choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched or when the tree is tapped on the ground.
- Before placing the tree securely in the stand, cut 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk and place it in water immediately. Water it daily and keep the tree stand filled with water because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly.
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit. Set up the tree and decorations away from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents and other heat sources.
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory; check the packaging – some lights are only for indoor use.
- Don’t use any strings of lights that are frayed or broken.
- Don’t connect more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. Keep lit candles away from the tree, and decorations.
- Place the tree as close to an electrical outlet as possible so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place rugs over cords to disguise them; this can become an increased fire hazard.
- Unplug all Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Dispose of the tree promptly when Christmas is over or when the tree starts to drop needles. Don’t leave it in the house or garage.