Paulk: Tree fires not common, but serious

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas is on its way, and in light of the holiday spirit, many residents have already or will soon put up the Christmas tree.

As you deck the halls this season, the state fire marshal’s office reminds you to be fire smart.

“Christmas is an exciting time where just about every home in the neighborhood is accented with decorations and seasonal lighting,” said Ed Paulk, state fire marshal.

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“Although decorations and Christmas trees certainly spread holiday cheer, it is important to follow basic safety steps so celebrations go off without a hitch.”

A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can grow large very quickly, the fire marshal’s office said.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, fire departments across the nation responded to nearly 250 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees in 2005-2009.

Statistics show that these fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in property damage.

The fire marshal’s office offered the following tips to ensure safety this holiday season:


Picking the tree

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.


Placing the tree

  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, heaters, candles or hot lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand daily.


Lighting the tree

  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are intended only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light 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 near or to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Paulk reminds consumers that although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious.