Tips for preventing a Christmas tree fire

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.


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