By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
During the holiday season, it is festive and fun to light up a tree with hundreds of delightful twinkly lights and place it alongside a cozy fireplace, but doing so can sometimes create a major hazard, and Christmas tree fires make headlines every winter.
Many fire departments educate their communities on the use of twinkly lights prior to the holidays, and it's important during a time when people are taking their lights out of storage to decorate their homes and trees. There also needs to be a continued discussion about the hazards associated with these lights right after the holidays. Once the holidays are over, holiday decorations are often up for a couple more weeks, potentially creating new environments where lights may start fires.
Christmas trees grow in all 50 states, and many people chose a real tree over an artificial one. Decorating the tree with lights is a centuries old tradition that first involved attaching lit candles to its branches - with obvious and frequent catastrophic results - especially a tree that is drying out. Nowadays, vigilance is still vital during the holidays.
By The Numbers: Christmas Tree Fires
In modern times, it's still extremely advisable for people to carefully check the holiday lights they are digging out of storage, (including the wiring), to make sure they work properly and have no visible damaged or broken wires.
It is important that people placing holiday lights outside follow the manufacturer recommendations; lights should never be left outside for extended periods after the holidays because wildlife are known to chew threw the wires - often shorting them and creating hazards that people may not be considering when they plug the light in again the following year.
Another vital consideration is the placement of a natural tree within the home, because unless they are watered at metered intervals, they become dry and a major fire hazard if next to any heat source. The scary video below was released by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2015 has more than 600,000 views, but should probably have a lot more. It shows how quickly a tree can ignite when its not watered.
Just days ago, a Christmas tree situated too close to a wood-burning fireplace, erupted in flames and destroyed an Alabama family's house. Thankfully, the family members were not injured and escaped the inferno. Some other key facts from the NFPA's website:
- Between 2012-2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 170 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 4 deaths, 15 injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage annually.
- On average, one of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 139 total reported home fires.
- Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43% of home Christmas tree fires.
- In one-quarter (27%) of the Christmas tree fires and in 80% of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
- More than one-fifth (22%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
- Forty-two percent of reported home Christmas tree fires occurred in December and 33% were reported in January.
- Two of every five (40%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
To conclude, it remains important to educate the public about Christmas tree fires even after the holidays have passed. People will continue to have their decorative lights up in their homes and outside - potentially creating a hazardous environment.