Christmas tree fires can do serious damage

Dec. 17, 2013 @ 04:28 PM

Electrical problems cause one-third of Christmas tree fires, but taking precautions cuts the risk, according to Durham fire officials.
“Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious,” Fire Marshal Edward Reid of the Durham Fire Department said.
A heat source too close to the tree accounts for one in six Christmas tree fires, he said.
Home candle fires also peak this time of year, with 56 percent occurring when something that can catch fire is too close to the candle. In December, 11 percent of home candle fires begin with decorations compared to four percent the rest of the year.
Reid offered these tips to keep Christmas trees from posing a fire hazard:
- If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
- Pick a tree with fresh, green needles that don’t fall off when touched.
- Before placing a tree in the stand, cut one to two inches from the base of the trunk.
- Be sure the tree is at least three feet from any heat source like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
- Don’t let the tree block an exit.
- Add water to the tree stand each day.
Staying safe also means lighting the Christmas tree correctly, according to Reid.
“Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory,” Reid said. “Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
Other tips:
- Replace any string of lights that has worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
After Christmas, get rid of the tree when it begins to drop needles, Reid said.
“Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home,” he said. “Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.”
Place trees outside for collection on your normal waste-collections date and the city’s Solid Waste Department workers will pick them up, he said.