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Christmas Trees and Fire Safety

Decorating and setting up Christmas trees can bring instant holiday joy, but they can also be a fire hazard. In the United States, between 2015-2019, it was reported that each year on average, 160 house fires were started by a Christmas tree, resulting in an average of 2 deaths, 12 injuries and $10 million (USD) in direct property damage. (NFPA- Winter Holiday Fire Facts, 2019)

Christmas trees can be a powerful fuel source. From the moment of ignition, it can fill an entire room with smoke and heat, igniting everything within the room in minutes (WPI, 2016). Considering the number of combustible materials present in a house, a Christmas tree can present a significant fire hazard.

For these reasons, it is essential to take precautions when choosing and decorating a Christmas tree. These include the following:

  • Select freshly cut Christmas trees and water them daily. As with any wood, dried-out trees are highly flammable and can ignite quickly.
  • Use flame-resistant artificial trees. Real trees can be more dangerous when it comes to fires compared to artificial trees.
  • Inspect lights and decorations. Ensure that all the lights and decorations used are Australian-compliant and in good working condition as electricity can cause ignition.
  • Choose an appropriate tree location. This is to ensure that a safe egress pathway in the event of a fire is not affected.
  • Avoid combustibles near the tree. Combustible elements near the tree can fuel the fire.
  • Avoid having heat or fire sources close to the tree. This can cause the tree to ignite and so should be at least one meter away.
  • Unplug at night or when you are away. Ensure the tree lights are unplugged when you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Test smoke alarms. Make sure smoke alarms are properly located and are in working order.
  • Avoid using extension cords. Overusing extension cords are an increased fire risk as plugging too many lights into an extension cord can cause the plug in the wall socket to overheat, potentially leading to a fire.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. Overloading can lead to overheating of the outlets which is an increased fire risk.
  • Do not smoke or place candles and other open flames near the tree.

References

NFPA – Winter holiday fire facts. (2019). Nfpa.org. https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Seasonal-fire-causes/Winter-holidays/Holiday-fires-by-the-numbers

WPI (2016). Avoid a Holiday Hazard: WPI Demonstrates Christmas Tree Safety with a Live Burn. (n.d.). www.youtube.com. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-yBGoDjhOI&t=16s

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