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Holiday Decor, Christmas Trees Pose Fire Risk, Says State Fire Marshal

The State Fire Marshal’s Office demonstrated the catastrophic dangers posed by indoor Christmas trees at a news conference this week.

The State Fire Marshal’s office reminded residents to be fire safe with holiday decorations this season, especially Christmas trees, during a demonstration this week at the State Fire Training Academy in North Bend.

The demonstration showed the effects of a holiday tree catching fire and the speed and scale of destruction that could occur in a residential home.

A video of a similar demonstration conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is attached to this story.

In a news release, the Fire Marshal's office urges residents to keep natural trees well-watered while they are on display indoors. Improper care and decoration of a live or artificial tree can lead to catastrophic fires.

"It takes only seconds for a tree to ignite and the entire room to become engulfed in flames," says State Fire Marshal Charles Duffy.

Here are some precautionary tips from the State Fire Marshal's Office to ensure a safe and happy holiday.

Preventing Christmas Tree Fires

  • Selecting a Tree for the Holiday.  Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
  • Caring for Your Tree.  Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Keep away from heat sources including fireplaces and heat vents. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
  • Disposing of Your Tree.  Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

  Holiday Lights

  • Maintain Your Holiday Lights.  Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets.  Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.

Holiday Decorations

  • Use Only Nonflammable Decorations.  All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant.
  • Artificial Christmas Trees.  If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame-retardant.

(Ed. Note: The infomation above was provided by a State Fire Marshal's Office news release.)

Priya Sinha December 07, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Excuse my language but, NO S$!?! Are people really this stupid that they need to be reminded of this. Survival of the fittest.
Brian Soergel December 07, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Priya: Agreed!

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