With the Christmas season upon us, families are rushing out to get fresh cut evergreens to place in their living rooms as Christmas trees.
Unfortunately, this staple Christmas decoration also accounts for many hundreds of home fires every year and thus families need to take extra precautions, according to Byron Gray, president of the New Rochelle Uniformed Fire Fighters Association.
Data from the National Fire Protection Association says that between 2005-2009 U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 home fires per year that began with a Christmas tree. These fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries, and $16.7 million in direct property damage each year. Even more alarming is the fact that on average, one of every 18 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. While these types of fires may not be common, when they do occur they are likely to be serious.
“No one thinks a tragedy is going to happen to them,” said Fire Fighter Gray, a New Rochelle resident and 27 year veteran of the New Rochelle Fire Department. “Don’t risk it. By simply following these holiday fire safety tips a family can focus on spending more time celebrating with your loved ones this holiday season and less time worrying.”
The New Rochelle Uniformed Fire Fighters Association is recommending that families celebrating Christmas follow some suggestions to lower the risk of fire this holiday season:
• A well-watered tree is one of the most important ways to prevent a tragedy. Buy your live Christmas tree freshly cut. Fresh trees are sticky to the touch and do not easily lose their needles. Many trees sold on lots were cut many weeks ago and are already dried out.
• Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
• Do not place your tree close to any heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. Heat sources too close to Christmas trees are the cause of one of every five (20%) of these fires.
• Avoid the instinct to rush your tree up right after Thanksgiving or leave it until mid-January. Experts say you should not keep your live Christmas tree up for more than two weeks.
• Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
• When your tree becomes dry, discard it immediately.
• Inspect holiday lights for frayed wires, broken sockets and excessive wear before putting them up.
• Do not use real candles with an open flame on or near trees.
• Do not overload electrical outlets. No more than three light strands should be linked.
• Occasionally check the wires to be sure they are not warm to the touch.
• Do not leave holiday lights on unattended for extended periods of time.
• Be sure that trees and other decorations do not block any building exits.
• As in every season, make sure your smoke alarms are working.