Think Fire Safety First for a Festive Holiday Season; Water Christmas trees daily and watch candles close

Contact: Melanie Brown 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

December 10, 2013 - ‘Tis the season to water your Christmas tree daily and use caution with candles and electric lights to keep this joyous time of year safe. 

“A dry tree is extremely flammable and could rapidly become a towering inferno in your living room.  You would have only seconds to escape a potentially deadly fire --- don’t risk the loss of family, friends or your home,” said State Fire Marshal Richard Miller.  Assess your electrical lights and cords for possible deficiencies. Shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches are also the most common causes of tree and house fires this time of year.”

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and one in six are caused by a heat source too close to the tree. Statistics show that Christmas tree fires are much more likely to cause death than average home fires and the risk of fire is higher with natural trees than artificial ones. 

If buying a “real” tree, Miller said to make sure it’s as fresh as possible with needles that don’t readily fall off.  Make a fresh cut of 1-2” at the base of the trunk to allow it to absorb water.  Place the tree in a non-tip style holder with wide feet.  Use only holiday lights that have been approved by a testing agency such as the Underwriters Laboratories and have a UL-tested label on them.  LED lights are cooler and use less electricity than conventional lights.

Never use lighted candles on the tree. Keep lit candles away from decorations, presents, furniture, draperies or anything that can burn.  Keep candles up high away from children and pets. Use battery operated, flameless candles. Never leave home or go to bed with lights on or candles lit. 

Additional holiday fire safety tips:   

  • Make sure the tree is away from doorways, fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents and other heat sources that could cause it to dry out prematurely or catch fire.
  • If you use an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled “flame-retardant.” This indicates the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. 
  • Don’t use any strings of lights that are frayed or broken; throw out damaged sets.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Place the tree as close to an electrical outlet as possible so that cords are not running long distances.  Do not cover up cords with rugs to hide them – this increases the fire hazard.
  • Remove your tree soon after the holidays and use your community’s pickup day if available. Don’t leave it in the house or garage.

“Be sure your smoke alarms are in working order, have a fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it,” Miller said.  “Have a prepared and practiced home escape plan that will help insure your survival in a home fire.”

To see U.S. Fire Administration video demonstrations showing how flammable a dry Christmas tree can be compared to a tree watered regularly go to: http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/seasonal-fires/winter-holiday-safety

The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services wishes all Michigan citizens a safe holiday season.

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