Tip of the week: Avoid Christmas fire dangers

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

More than 32 million homes will decorate real Christmas trees this season, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

And trees, along with other decorations, can pose safety hazards.

Keeping fresh Christmas trees well-watered adds to their longevity and safety. If ignited, a dry tree can go up in flames in a matter of seconds, as opposed to a well-watered tree, according to tree association.

“Because many trees have been dormant for a couple months, it’s typical for them to absorb most of their water within six to eight hours after being brought into a warm home,” Beth Walterscheidt, a tree farmer from Texas and president of tree association, said in a statement.

“Families should make a fresh cut to the trunk and place the tree in water as soon as possible once getting it home. Trees that are kept fresh during the holiday season are extremely difficult to ignite. If the water level falls below the cut surface for more than four to six hours, the tree’s ability to keep absorbing moisture is inhibited.”

Trees should be disposed of after four weeks, said John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for Underwriters Laboratories, an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization.

“If you put up your Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, it needs to be taken down the week after Christmas,” Drengenberg said. “After New Year’s, even well-watered trees can become a fire hazard.”

On average, real and artificial Christmas trees are the first items ignited in an estimated 210 home fires annually, according to the most recent National Fire Protection Association statistics.

Candle safety

“Christmas Day holds the record for the highest number of reported home candle fires,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications at the fire safety association. “Consumers should keep in mind that if they’re going to use candles, they need to place them away from things that can burn. It is also important to keep candles away from children and pets to avoid the risk of having them accidentally tipped over.”

The fire safety association said candles caused an estimated 15,600 home fires annually, causing an estimated 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries and $539 million in direct property damage.

Decoration tips

- Regularly check your tree for fresh, green needles. Trees that have dried out over several weeks burn faster than fresh, well-watered trees. Remember to keep your tree watered at all times.

- Always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children, and don’t leave children unattended in a room with lit candles.

- Look for the holographic Underwriters Laboratories Mark on light strings and electrical decorations. The Underwriters Laboratories Mark means that Underwriters Laboratories engineers have tested samples of the product for safety hazards. A green holographic UL mark means for indoor use only, while a red holographic UL mark means for indoor and outdoor use.

- Inspect electrical decorations -- new or old -- before plugging it in.

Cracked sockets, frayed, bare or loose wires can cause a serious electric shock or start a fire. Replace damaged items.

- Take down holiday lights after 90 days of use to prevent damage from weather conditions and neighborhood animals.

For more tips about holiday decorating safety, candle safety and cooking safety, visit the Underwriters Laboratories Web site at, or the fire safety association Web site at

Source: National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories

Compiled by The Repository