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SFMO: Practice Good Fire Safety Habits With Christmas Trees

Reduce Home Fire Risk By Following Christmas Tree Fire Safety Tips
Tuesday, December 22, 2020 | 08:25am

NASHVILLE – With retailers reporting a higher demand for Christmas trees this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, homeowners may be displaying their Christmas trees in their homes for longer periods of time than in the past.

To help reduce the risk of home fires, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) urges Tennesseans to be mindful of fire safety when it comes to Christmas trees.

“Tennesseans should not lose focus on the importance of fire safety during the holiday season,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner for Fire Prevention Gary Farley. “Taking the time to water a Christmas tree or checking that an electrical outlet is not overloaded with Christmas lights could make the difference between life and death later on.”

Assistant Commissioner Farley outlines more fire safety tips in a new blog post devoted to winter fire safety.

While fire departments only respond to an average of 200 Christmas tree fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), those fires are far more deadly than other home fires. NFPA data shows that one of every 32 reported home fires caused by Christmas trees resulted in a death. This compares to one death per 143 reported home fires resulting from other causes.

To demonstrate the fire safety hazards of a dry Christmas tree, the SFMO recently partnered with Brentwood Fire & Rescue to stage a fire safety demonstration involving a fire that began with a dry Christmas tree. A video of the Christmas tree burn can be found here.

To help Tennesseans reduce their risk of Christmas tree fires, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office shares the following tips for consumers when selecting, decorating and maintaining Christmas trees:

Picking a Tree:

  • If you choose an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled and certified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
  • If you choose a live tree, select one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • A good test of a tree’s age is bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has dried out and could be a fire hazard.

Placing a Tree:

  • Before placing a live tree, cut two inches from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure any tree is displayed at least three feet away from any heat source. Fireplaces, radiators, candles and even heat vents can cause a live tree to dry out, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flames or sparks.
  • If using a live tree, do not leave it up longer than two weeks.
  • Make sure trees and other decorations aren’t blocking exits.
  • Add water to your tree stand daily.
  • Use lights that have been tested by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Ensure you are using the proper lights. Some are for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Replace any string lights with worn or broken cords. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree.
  • Always turn off decorative lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Keep all heat sources at least three feet away from a tree.

Disposing of a Tree

  • Get rid of your live tree when it starts dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage or placed outside against the home.
  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.

To help raise awareness of fire safety, the SFMO launched a public service campaign with country music artist Tracy Lawrence who starred in a series of public service announcements (PSA) including a heating safety PSA.