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Christmas Trees, Holiday Decorations & Lights – Decorate with Safety in Mind

Provided by Prince William Fire & Rescue

Christmas trees and decorations add to the holiday spirit, yet they pose the risk of fire and injury to many, especially children. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas trees are a major source of fuel in a fire. Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 200 structure fires, per year, caused by Christmas trees resulting in an annual average of six deaths, 16 injuries and $14.8 million in property damage. When comparing Christmas tree fires to other reported home fires:

  • One out of every 32 home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death compared to 1 death out of every 143 reported home fires.
  • Christmas tree structure fires are more likely to occur after Christmas than before.

Safety Tips
When decorating this holiday season, follow these simple safety tips:

  • Decorate with children in mind. DO NOT put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.
  • Keep near each phone the number of the National Poison Center (800) 222-1222.
  •  Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
  • Natural trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. DO NOT put the tree within three feet of a heat source, e.g., a fireplace, space
    heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • DO NOT burn tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.
  • Remove your tree after Christmas or when it is dry.

Holiday Lights & Decorative Lighting
Holiday lights and decorative lighting add a festive touch during the holiday season; yet 25% (one out of every four) Christmas tree fires were caused by electrical failures or malfunctions.

According to NFPA, one quarter (25%) of the Christmas tree fires and in 80% of the deaths were due to a form of heat source such as a candle or equipment that were too close to the tree.

  • Two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles.
  • December is the peak time of the year for decorations/home candle fires.
  • Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the top four days for home candle fires.

Safety Tips
When using holiday or decorative lights, follow these simple safety tips:

  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that burns.
  •  NEVER leave a lit tree or other decorative lighting displays unattended.
  •  TURN OFF ALL decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
  •  Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.
  •  DO NOT overload extension cords or outlets.
  • DO NOT run an electrical cord under a rug.

Holiday Plants – Decorative but Toxic
Holiday plants such as Poinsettias, Mistletoe, Holly, Amaryllis and Daffodils, Cyclamen and Jerusalem Cherry, may enliven a room but they are poisonous to humans and/or pets. When displaying these types of plants, place them in locations that can be admired from a distance by all, but out of reach of children and pets.

Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin McGee would like to remind residents that holidays were designed to spend memorable moments with family and friends not visits to the emergency room. Make your holiday a cherished and memorable holiday by preparing and implementing proper precautions.

For more information regarding Christmas trees and Holiday safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association nfpa.org and U.S. Fire Administration usfa.fema.gov/.

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