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Oh Christmas Tree! Keep Yours from Catching on Fire

Most of us love the wonderful, fragrant smell of a fresh-cut Christmas tree.  Twinkling lights and colorful decorations add the final touches to the dark green needles.

Jamey Toney, CFP®, ChFC®

But Christmas trees can be dangerous, too.  

From 2005-2009, about 240 Christmas trees caught on fire each year throughout the United States.  These fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

A Christmas tree can be completely engulfed by fire in less than 40 seconds, so it’s important to be cautious with your tree.  

To help keep you and your family safe this holiday season, I urge you to follow the Christmas tree safety tips provided below.

Make sure it’s fresh

• Buy a locally-grown tree.  Trees transported to our area were cut earlier and are more likely to be dry.

• Break a few needles.  They should be flexible, moist and sticky.  They should also be fragrant when crushed.  If they’re not, then the tree probably isn’t very fresh.

• Check the color of the tree.  Some trees are sprayed with a blue-green dye.  The dye is harmless, but you need to make sure the paint is not hiding a dry tree.

• Shake the tree to see if green needles fall off.  If they do, the tree is dry.  Brown needles that fall from the inside probably fell years ago and were trapped in the tree.

• Cut about 1 inch off the base of the tree to help the water move through it (most vendors will do this for you).  

• Put the base in a bucket of water when you get it home.  Leave it outside in a cool, shaded place until you’re ready to decorate.

• Check the water level daily.  A six-foot tree should use a gallon of water every two days. 

Display it safely

• Keep the tree in a cool room.  The cooler the room, the longer the tree will stay fresh.

• Don’t put the tree near heat sources that can dry it out or even ignite it.

• Keep the tree away from doors and exits.  If a fire occurs, the tree could block escape routes.

• Secure the tree so it can’t be knocked over.

• Dispose of your tree as soon as possible after Christmas.  Don’t burn it in the fireplace because trees burn hot and quick.  It could start a fire in your home.  Trees also contain oils that could damage your fireplace.

Decorate smart

• Avoid using older, larger bulbs, which are hotter and dry out the tree.

• Don’t use lights with frayed cords.  Check all lights to make sure they are in good working condition.

• Always unplug or switch off tree lights before leaving home or going to sleep.

• Don’t burn candles on or around the tree.  Use small light bulbs to light your tree.

• Avoid overloading electrical cords.  Putting more than three strands of lights together can be a fire hazard.

• Avoid combustible decorations such as inflammable reflectors for colored lights, foil icicles and tinsel.

I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season!