Idaho Falls Fire Department demonstrates how easily a Christmas tree can catch fire. | Mary Boyle, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — It takes less than five minutes for a dry Christmas tree to transition from cheerful holiday decoration to a destructive blaze that could destroy a home.
To illustrate the fire dangers surrounding holiday decorations, Servpro of Idaho Falls hosted a Christmas tree burning demonstration Wednesday in Idaho Falls.
With members of the Idaho Falls Fire Department at the ready, a candle was lit near the Christmas tree in a fake living room. Within minutes, the tiny flame had spread to the tree and turned into an inferno. If it had been a real living room, the flames would have spread quickly, with disastrous results.
Flickering lights and winter greenery are hallmarks of the holiday season. Unfortunately, these decorations can also present fire risks that can quickly turn what should be a festive time of year into a devastating one.
Mary Boyle, EatsIdahoNews.com
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, fire departments across the country respond to about 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations.
Christmas trees alone cause 210 house fires per year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association.
Here are some tips for enjoying the Christmas season, and your Christmas tree, safely.
Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, says the NFPA. They can look, smell and feel like real candles.
If you must use real candles, the U.S. Fire Administration advises keeping them at least 12 inches away from anything that burns. Additionally, ensure they are stable and put them where they won’t be knocked over by guests, children or pets. When you leave the room or go to bed, always blow out candles.
RELATED | Demonstration shows how quickly a candle and Christmas tree can destroy your home
Choosing a tree is important. When shopping for a real tree, choose the freshest-looking one available. The fire danger of Christmas trees increases when the tree isn’t freshly cut, says the NFPA. The longer they are on display, the drier they will be. Once you get your tree home, place it in water immediately.
Place the tree in a stand that is sturdy and designed to not tip over, and put it near an electrical outlet to minimize the use of extension cords. Keep it at least three feet away from heating vents, radiators, fireplaces and other heat sources. Heat will dry the tree and increase the risk of a fire. Finally, make sure the tree is where kids and pets won’t tip it over.
Mary Boyle, EastIdahoNews.com
Check the water level often to ensure the water container is filled. To check the tree itself for dryness, choose a branch near the trunk and allow it to slide between your thumb and forefinger. If needles shed easily, the tree should be removed or replaced, since trees dry from the inside out, the agency says.
According to the NFPA, even a well-watered tree should be taken down within four weeks of being brought into the home. If you decorated your tree right after Thanksgiving, it should be discarded the week after Christmas, not New Year’s Day.
Electrical failures or malfunctions are involved in nearly half of Christmas tree fires, says the American Christmas Tree Association. String lights can ignite the tree with sparks or small electrical fires.
The NFPA recommends inspecting holiday lights before you put them up. Throw away light strands that have worn, broken cords or have loose bulbs.
Read the manufacturer’s instructions for how many light strands you can connect together and don’t exceed that number. This can make wiring hot and cause a fire.
Finally, turn off the lights on your tree before leaving home or going to bed.
See how quickly a tree can ignite an entire room in the video player above.
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