Live Christmas Tree Fire Hazard


We at want to share some safety tips and a video indicating the severity of a fire hazard pertaining to dried out live Christmas trees.  The dry live Christmas tree featured in the video is engulfed in an uncontrollable fire in less than 60 seconds. The comparison video emphasis the importance of maintaining the daily watering of live Christmas trees.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that there is an estimated annual average of 210 home structure fires that begin with Christmas trees.  Based on data from 2002 through 2005, these fires caused an average of 24 civilian deaths, 27 civilian injuries, and $13.3 million in direct property damage per year.

The NFPA analysis also shows that although the number of Christmas tree fires is low, these fires represent a higher level of hazard.  On average, 1 of every 9 Christmas tree fires resulted in a fatality compared to an average of one death per 75 non-confined home structure fires overall.  Further, 49 % of Christmas tree fires spread beyond the room of origin.  The fires that spread beyond the room of origin caused 94 % of the associated fatalities.

The percentage of trees involved in structure fires represent an extremely small portion of the total number of natural Christmas trees sold, which is estimated at 30 million trees, in the United States each year.  The moisture content of each tree can play a dominant role in determining the fire hazard each tree represents.

Properly maintaining a cut Christmas tree is important to retaining a high moisture content in the needles of the tree to limit accidental ignition and prevent rapid flame spread.  A tree which has dry needles can readily ignite with a flaming source and generate heat release rates that are capable of causing flashover in residential scale rooms.

The safety tips below apply to both live and artificial trees:

  • A live Christmas tree should be removed from the house ASAP once it starts showing signs of drying out i.e. dropping/browning/loose needles when pulled.
  • The maximum amount of time for even a well maintained live Christmas tree in a house is four weeks.
  • Keep trees away from heat sources and candles.
  • Do not connect more than 3 strands of lights continuously.
  • Confirm that the lights are designed for indoor use.
  • Inspect lights for any damage/defects prior to use.
  • Unplug tree lights when leaving home, or going to bed for the night.
  • Make sure tree lights are approved by a reputable testing lab.
  • Utilize a sturdy tree stand to prevent the tree from tipping over..
  • Do not leave children unattended around Christmas trees.
  • Do not store discarded trees in a garage.
  • Do not utilize candles for tree decorations.
  • Do not block an exit with a tree.
  • Confirm that your artificial tree is fire retardant..

You can obtain additional information by logging onto NFPA, or NIST.



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