The most wonderful time of the year is also the most likely time of the year for house fires. A fire hazard may be right in front of you in the form of a well-decorated Christmas tree.

“Christmas tree fires are…a fast, fast fire,” said Todd Kowalski, Kalamazoo Township fire marshal.

A simple spark can turn a dry Christmas tree into a torch in just 12 seconds, according to a demonstration by the National Fire Protection Association. The same study showed how a Christmas tree fire can engulf an entire room in flames in less than 30 seconds.

The results can be just as harrowing in real life. Firefighters say a faulty electrical connection in a Christmas tree is to blame for a fire that destroyed a home in Hartford earlier this week. The two people who were asleep inside the house when the fire sparked escaped unharmed when a passerby saw the flames and pounded on their door.

To keep your season merry, the Consumer Product Safety Commission provided these Christmas tree tips:

  • Fresh, watered trees are much less likely to catch fire. So when buying a tree, look for branches with vibrant, green needles that don’t come off the branch easily.
  • Make sure your tree is at least three feet from any heat source, like a fireplace, heat vent or candle.
  • Water your tree daily.
  • If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “fire resistant.”

“People forget once they go out and cut that tree or buy the tree off the lot, they forget to cut the two inches off the bottom of the tree,” Kowalski added. “That allows the water and kind of everything to soak up through the tree.”

Kowalski said it doesn’t take much to set off a major house fire.

“It’s just a spark,” he said. “Especially if you get a dried-out tree, something that’s been sitting around for a while, something that’s been baking over the top of a furnace register or next to a fireplace, it dries them out even quicker, and it’s off to the races at that point.”

Firefighters also recommend that you have working smoke detectors.


The kitchen is the heart of the home, especially during the holidays. From testing family recipes to decorating cakes and cookies, everyone enjoys being part of the preparations. Kids especially love to be involved in holiday preparations. However, safety in the kitchen is important, especially when there is a lot of activity and people at home.

As you start preparing your holiday schedule and organizing that large family feast, remember to play it safe! E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety offers a few simple tips so you can enjoy time with your loved ones and keep yourself and your family safer from fire.

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop or cooking your turkey so you can keep an eye on the food and check on it frequently.
  • Keep kids away from the stove. Maintain a three-foot kid free zone away from things that are hot and can burn (the stove, oven, microwave, or food).
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Have activities that keep kids out of the kitchen during this busy time. Games, puzzles, or books can keep them busy. Kids can get involved in preparations with recipes that can be done outside the kitchen.
  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the oven or stovetop.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pets, pocketbooks, or bags.
  • Keep knives, utility lighters, and matches out of the reach of children. Place these tools up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in a room with a lit candle. When you leave the room, extinguish the candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working and are located on every level of your home. Test them by pushing the test button, replace batteries annually and replace alarms every 10 years.
  • Never place smoke alarms in the kitchen or immediately outside the bathroom where cooking odors or steam from the shower can cause nuisance activations.
  • Keep exits clear and accessible. In case of a fire, everyone in the home needs immediate access to the closest exit leading outside.

If your family needs a new smoke alarm and you are unable to obtain one, contact your local fire department or e-mail to learn about the Operation Save A Life smoke alarm installation program close to Where You Live!