Christmas Tree Safety

Tree safety tips:  Christmas Tree Safety Tips PDF for Printing

  • Always choose a freshly cut tree.  To test a tree, strike the stump down on a firm surface. If needles fall off, the tree is too dry.
  • Consider buying a live tree instead. You can plant it later to enjoy it for years to come.  Click here for Information on using and planting a live Christmas Tree.
  • When you are ready to set the tree up cut off 1/2 to 1 inch from the bottom of the tree before placing in the stand which should be filled with hot water (not boiling, but around 130-160º F) as soon as the tree is set up.
  • The tree could absorb as much as a gallon of water the first day.
  • Use wire or nylon cord to secure the tree to the wall or ceiling to prevent it from being knocked over by children or pets
  • Place the tree away from heat sources and, of course, from sparks and open flame.
  • Always keep the tree well watered.  Check and refill often.
  • Use only noncombustible decorations.
  • Check and replace any worn or damaged light sets. It is a good practice to replace any set that is more that four or five years old.
  • Use only U.L. or F.M. approved light strings;  Spot or floodlights should only be used on an artificial tree;  NO CANDLES!
  • Avoid overloading electrical circuits or creating “octopus” connections.
  • Do not use cellophane. There is no way to make it flameproof.
  • Treat trees with a Fire Marshal approved flame retardant.
  • Do not use cotton batting — including Santa’s whiskers — or paper decorations unless they have been treated with a flame-retardant treatment.
  • Disconnect the lights at bedtime or when unattended
  • Use miniature lights that produce less heat.
  • Make sure there in an operational smoke detector installed nearby.
  • Remove discarded wrappings and packages from the house immediately and never burn them in the woodstove or fireplace – it could cause a chimney fire.
  • Do not burn tree branches in the fireplace – it could throw off a large amount of heat and cause a fire.  Christmas trees also cause an oily soot which may damage the fireplace.

House Fires are not caused by Christmas Trees

Every year we hear a news report about Christmas tree safety. In typical modern media sensationalist style, these stories are usually framed in the form of warnings, loaded with innuendoes about how Christmas trees always tend to be at the center of holiday house fires. Is that a big surprise? If a house burns and there’s a tree in the living room, the tree will burn too, right? That does not mean the Christmas tree caused the fire. In fact, there were only 111 instances last year where the tree was even the first item to burn. Among those households, none reported that the tree was the cause of the fire.

A properly watered natural Christmas tree is not a fire hazard. Frayed wiring and overloaded electrical outlets are. For those of you looking into buying a natural tree this Christmas, think about that before you put it up in your living room. Clear some space and make sure that no other appliances or electronics are running into the wall outlet you’re plugging the tree lights into. Use a new power strip if you have multiple plugs and make sure the surge protection feature works. Power surges are not common these days, but they and brownouts do happen.

Statistics show that artificial trees are likely to catch fire sooner than a natural tree when a house fire occurs. A natural fresh cut tree is green wood kept fresh by water, and a fir or pine tree is filled with wood sap, a substance that makes burning more difficult. Have you ever tried to throw fresh-cut pinewood into a campfire? It smokes a whole lot but takes a few minutes to light up. Even the pine needles don’t burn well. That’s one of the reasons evergreens were first chosen to be Christmas trees. The original sacred tree in Germany was an oak. Pine is safer for indoor use.

Electrified lights for a Christmas tree became popular in the 1950’s because decorating with lighted candles was dangerous. Back then; if they actually had the media outlets we have today, those somber “warnings” might have been justified. With the safety precautions we’re able to take today, house fires started at the Christmas tree have become a rarity. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use caution, but don’t pass on the chance to have a real Christmas tree in your living room out of fear.

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