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HomeNewsTennessee State Fire Marshal Urges Fire Safety for Christmas Trees

Tennessee State Fire Marshal Urges Fire Safety for Christmas Trees

Tennessee State Fire MarshalNashville, TN – The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is reminding Tennesseans to always keep natural, fresh-cut Christmas trees watered in order to avoid the fire risk created when they are allowed to dry out.

“A dry tree is a dangerous tree,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Deputy Commissioner Gary West. “Properly maintaining a cut Christmas tree’s moisture content by keeping it in water significantly reduces the chance that its needles will dry out and create a fire hazard.”

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) records show structure fires caused by Christmas trees result in an average of seven deaths, 19 injuries, and $17.5 million in direct property damage every year.

While Christmas tree fires are not common, when they occur, they are likely to be very serious.

On average, one of every 31 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. Some type of heat source, such as a candle or electrical equipment, was too close to the tree in one quarter (24%) of Christmas tree fires.

To illustrate the short time in which a dry Christmas tree can catch fire and engulf a room in flames, the SFMO is distributing a video of a side-by-side comparison of the burn rates of a properly maintained tree and a dried-out tree shown above.

In addition to keeping natural trees watered, the State Fire Marshal’s Office also shares these Christmas tree safety tips:

Picking the tree. If you choose a live tree, select one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.

Placing the tree. Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk. Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit. Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree. Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect. Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Recycling the tree. Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.

Take time this holiday season to develop and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your home. The plan should include two ways out of every room and a designated meeting place outside where everyone can be accounted for.

Don’t forget to install smoke alarms on every level of your home and to test them monthly. More than 90,000 free smoke alarms have distributed throughout Tennessee in the past three years through the SFMO’s “Get Alarmed” program. That program is credited with saving the lives of 106 people to date.

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