Article by Dale Grant
In 2021, tragedy struck on Christmas morning as a rapidly moving fire made its way through a Philadelphia home, leading to the death of a father and two children. Authorities believe the lights on a dry Christmas tree started the deadly fire as the family slept in the early hours of the morning.
Not more than one month later, a child playing with a lighter on the 2nd floor in a Philadelphia Fairmount row home, accidentally set the family Christmas tree ablaze. The dried out tree ignited in just seconds and spread throughout the home faster then the family could react. With thick black smoke and heat from flashover, the fire would quickly take the lives of 12 people in the home, nine of which were children.
When discussing the reason why these fires are able to spread so quickly, the authorities told reporters “A Christmas tree burns very quickly and very hot.” He went on to explain that “when trees go dry, it’s a violent and robust source.”
Data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that from 2015 to 2019, there was an average of 160 home fires started by a Christmas tree each year. While this number is down from the 2011-2015 average of 200 home fires, the number itself is still staggering.
Tragedies like these serve as a reminder of the importance of taking common sense fire safety measures into account when decorating for the holidays. The National Fire Prevention Association offers the following advice:
Pick The Right Tree
- Be sure to choose a tree with fresh, green needles that stay secure when touched.
Use Common Sense When Placing your Tree
- Before placing the tree in a proper stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk
- Make sure the tree is AT LEAST three feet from any heat source (fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, lights, etc.)
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
- Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water EVERY day.
Take Care When Decorating
- Use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory such as UL. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords as well as any with loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands able to be connected to each other.
- NEVER use lit candles to decorate your tree
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Properly Dispose of your Christmas Tree after the holidays.
- Dried out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage or placed outside against the house.
- Check with your local community to find a recycling or disposal recommendation
- Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent any hazards as well as increase the lifespan of your outdoor lights.
Visit NFPA.org for more tips on staying Fire Smart this holiday season!