For most folks who celebrate, Christmastime is a season of frivolity and fun, where the warmth and joy of time spent with family and friends counteracts the bitterness of winter’s weather. But for fans of safety — where our Safe-tees at? — it can be a minefield of minor and major safety violations that have us waking up in the middle of the night with visions of sugar plums fairies dancing through our heads while they are on fire. (The sugar plums, not our heads, to be clear.)
While that may seem like a far-off nightmare scenario, for the 210 homes per year where US fire departments have to visit for tree fire-related incidents, the fire risks involved with the holidays are very real. According to a study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA,) fires involving Christmas trees contribute directly to roughly 6 civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries and $16.2 million in damages every year. Which is the bad news.
The good news is that many of these fires are preventable, but it’s a safety plan that starts from the very first moment of the tree buying experience. The NFPA recommends focusing on the needles of you’re fancying, with “fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched” being the ideal state for your tree to start in.
From there, you’ll want to put the tree in the best position possible — both literally and figuratively — to not set aflame. The most notable, and least likely to be a part of your yearly tree placing tradition is to cut 2” from the base of the trunk of the tree to allow it to more readily take in the water it will desperately need over the next few days and weeks to stop from becoming a Christmas ornament constructed entirely out of flammable materials.
You’ll also want to make sure that once you’ve placed the tree in the stand, you’ve done so at a safe distance from any heat source and in a way that doesn’t block an exit should something happen. And, most importantly, you’ll want to make sure to add water daily and keep a keen eye on the fill line for your water.
Once the tree has reached its ultimate resting place in your home, it’s finally ready to be decorated, right? WRONG! Though, no worries, the fun has, in fact, begun. The fundamentals of good safety sense, that is! Don’t you dare put a single strand on your tree before making sure of the following:
- Your lights have the label of a recognized testing factory
- They are properly rated for where you plan on using them (as some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, specifically)
- You’ve replaced any string or worn or broken cords and/or loose bulb connections.
And then yes, Virginia, you are ready to finally decorate and light the tree. At least until it’s time to go to bed, as you should always turn off your Christmas tree lights before leaving the house or going to sleep for the night.
Once the season is over and the tree gets dry, it’s time to properly dispose of the tree based on the guidelines of your local community’s recycling program (while making sure to move it as far away from your home as possible to mitigate any potential damage should the tree suddenly find itself on fire!)