Is Your Christmas Tree a Fire Hazard? Tips from FDNY

SILive - December 02, 2017

by silive.com

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- As holiday decorations begin to light up streets across Staten Island, the FDNY is reminding residents to take precautions when setting up their Christmas trees this holiday season.

Both real and artificial trees, according to the FDNY, "pose an increased risk of fire." The National Fire Protection Association reported that "between 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 200 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year," resulting in $14.8 million in property damage annually.

As a result of the fires, there was an average of six deaths and 16 injuries annually, according to nfpa.org.

"Defective lighting, including electrical cords and plugs, cause almost half of all Christmas tree fires," FDNY stated in a post shared on Twitter; however, there are a multitude of factors to consider when choosing and setting up a tree.

When choosing an artificial tree, be sure to check that it is fire-retardant. If a real tree is preferred, inspecting to ensure that the tree is fresh will limit the possibility of fire-related issues, the FDNY states.

To check a tree's freshness, grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it towards you; "very few needles should come off," FDNY said. In addition, shaking or bouncing on the tree stump should not yield an excessive number of green needles, as this is an indication the tree may not be fresh.

And, for owners not planning to put the tree up immediately, making a one-half inch fresh cut off the bottom of the trunk and placing the tree in a five gallon bucket of warm water while storing the tree in cool temperatures will keep the tree fresh as possible.

If this practice is maintained for more than three days prior to putting the tree up, "make another one inch cut off the bottom of the trunk and immediately place the tree into a stand that holds at least a half-gallon of water," FDNY states. "No water additives are necessary. Plain tap water is best."

In terms of size, selecting a tree "that's an appropriate size for the room" is necessary, as "trees look smaller when they are outside and tree toppers and stands will add to the final height of the tree," the FDNY adds.

When choosing a spot to place the tree, keeping it "at least three feet away from heating system air registers, fireplaces and other heat sources" is a precaution the FDNY urges residents to take.

In addition, "Try to position the tree near an electrical outlet to minimize the use of extension cords," the FDNY said, as the practice of "daisy chaining" multiple extension cords to one another is extremely dangerous, according to OSHA.

For metallic trees, the FDNY advises against the use of electric lights. Instead, utilize remote spot or reflective lights to decorate the tree.

And, regardless of the type of tree, "Do not use lighted candles or other flaming devices on or near your tree," and, "Whenever possible, use decorations made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials," the FDNY states.

To ensure safety overnight, "Unplug tree lights when out of the room and before going to sleep," and when the holiday season is over, "discard the tree immediately," FDNY states.