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State Fire Marshal’s Office Urges Fire Safety for Christmas Trees

Thursday, December 18, 2014 | 09:29am

NASHVILLE –  The State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding Tennesseans with natural, fresh-cut Christmas trees to keep them in water because of the fire risk posed when they are allowed to dry out.

“Properly maintaining a cut Christmas tree’s moisture content by keeping it in water significantly reduces the chance that its needles will dry out and pose a fire hazard,” said Gary West, deputy commissioner of the Fire Prevention Division, Department of Commerce and Insurance.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), structure fires caused by Christmas trees result in an average of six deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage every year. Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be very serious. On average, one of every 40 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. A heat source placed too close to the Christmas tree started one of every five (18 percent) of these fires.

To illustrate the short time in which a dry, cut Christmas tree can catch fire and engulf a room in flames, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s office is distributing this link of a side-by-side comparison of the burn rates of a properly maintained tree and a dried-out tree: http://youtu.be/RNjO3wZDVlA

In addition to keeping natural trees watered, the State Fire Marshal’s Office also shares these Christmas tree safety tips:

  • Picking the tree. If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant. Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Placing the tree. Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1 inch – 2 inches from the base of the trunk. Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit. Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
  • Lighting the tree. Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect. Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • After Christmas. Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.

Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your home. The plan should include two ways out of every room and a designated meeting place outside where everyone can be accounted for.

Don’t forget to install smoke alarms on every level of your home and to test them monthly. The State Fire Marshal’s Office has distributed more than 68,000 smoke alarms throughout the state in two years’ time through our “Get Alarmed Tennessee” program. So far, that has resulted in 71 lives being saved. For more information, visit our website at http://www.tn.gov/fire/.

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