Second only to the Fourth of July, when you can find fireworks blazing everywhere you look, the Christmas holidays are one of the busiest times for the nation’s fire departments. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one in thirty-one Christmas trees may be potentially deadly and each year the fire service responds to about 230 structure fires that can be blamed for starting with a Christmas tree. They also estimate that about 30% of these tree fires are the result of faulty or malfunctioning electrical wiring.

Although Christmas tree fires aren’t especially frequent events, when they do occur they can become fully involved in just a matter of seconds, literally exploding into flames. This leaves little time for those within proximity to respond and occupants can quickly become overcome by smoke inhalation.

Following are some tips to help you prevent a Christmas tree fire and to remain safe in your home during the holiday season:

  1. Only buy a tree that’s been freshly cut.
  2. Keep your tree watered at least every other day.
  3. Keep trees at least 3′ away from any heat source.
  4. Discard the tree after Christmas of when it dries out.
  5. Use only UL (or another recognized testing laboratory) approved lights.
  6. Check light strings for loose connections, frayed wiring or damaged bulbs. Throw out any damaged strings.
  7. Use only lights and decorations that are flame retardant.
  8. Don’t connect strands of more than three mini-light sets or strings of more than 50 screw-in type bulbs.
  9. Turn the lights off when you leave home or retire for the night.
  10. Don’t use candles to decorate your tree.
  11. Don’t burn trees, branches or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  12. Make sure the tree isn’t blocking any exits and that you have a fire extinguisher in close proximity to the tree. Check that your smoke and/or heat detectors are in operational condition.
  13. If you forget to water your tree regularly, once the water level drops below where the tree has been cut it will form a seal, preventing any additional water from hydrating the tree. If you place the end of the tree in wet sand the water won’t evaporate so quickly, giving you an extra margin of error in your watering schedule.

Hopefully these tips will help in ensuring a safe and happy holiday. As always, you’ll want to make sure your homeowners insurance coverage is in force and up to date.