RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Christmas trees are a tradition for many as part of the holidays. They can also be a major source of fuel in a fire.
Between 2009 and 2013, Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an annual average of seven deaths, 19 injuries and $17.5 million in direct property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System and National Fire Protection Association.
On average, one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires.
“Richmond Fire’s ‘Keep the Wreath Green’ program happens during the month of December and actively alerts the community to recent fires in their immediate neighborhoods,” Richmond Fire officials said in a press release. “Our goals are that if a fire does occur, citizens will stop by any fire station and ask question to ensure that they’re taking all of the precautionary matters to prevent a fire from happening in their homes.”
Here are some things you should be aware of if purchasing a live tree:
- Ask the vendor whether the tree has been treated with fire retardant and whether it is freshly cut or not. One quick and simple test you can perform is by grabbing one of the limbs and gently pulling your hand across it, if the needles come off or if they don’t feel waxy, then it’s too dry to be in your house.
- When you take it home, cut 2 inches off the end of the trunk to give it a fresher cut to better absorb water. Water the tree immediately after putting it up and to continue watering it daily until you take it down to prevent it from drying out.
- When it comes to decorating a real tree, be sure to use energy-efficient, low-heat LED lights, and non-flammable ornaments/decorations (check for damages/exposed wiring daily). Never use candles or outdoor lighting on or near your tree. Unplug your lighting source and blow out all candles before you go to bed.
- Keep the trees away from heat sources such as space heaters and floor furnaces. Try to place these items at least the same distance away based on the height (example: if the tree is six feet tall, then it needs to be at least six feet away from that heat source).
- Get rid of your tree after Christmas, dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left inside the home, garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.
Don’t become a fire statistic this year or ever.