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Tips To Prevent Christmas Tree Fires

Christmas trees can be a beautiful addition to any home decorated for the holidays, but the Los Angeles City and County Fire Departments would like to remind residents who are considering purchasing a real tree of the potential fire hazard.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, one in 18 Christmas tree fires is fatal. Every year, ignited Christmas trees cause more than 240 house fires and more than 12 deaths.

The LA County Fire Department offers these tips to help avoid turning the holiday season into a tragedy.

Selecting a tree for the holidays:

  • Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.
  • The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.

Caring for your tree:

  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. Heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. 
  • Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. 
  • Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Consider using a potted tree.

Disposing of your tree:

  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
  • When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. 
  • The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pickup service. For information on tree disposal sites, call 888-CLEAN-LA.

Maintain your holiday lights:

  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. 
  • Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. If there is any question as to the integrity of your lights, replace them with a new set of lights.

Do not overload electrical outlets:

  • Follow the directions on the light sets when connecting your lights. 
  • Connect lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
  • Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch. 
  • Do not leave holiday lights on while unattended.
  • All decorations should be nonflammable or flame retardant and placed away from heat vents.

Artificial holiday trees:

  • If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Avoid using lit candles:

  • If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. 
  • Never leave the house with candles burning. 

Addition fire safety:

  • Never use lit candles on a tree. Do not even go near a holiday tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.
  • Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace. Wrapping paper can produce dangerous sparks and a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
  • Have working smoke alarms installed on every level and in every room of your home.
  • Test smoke detectors monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help.  Practice your home escape plan.

For other fire safety and emergency tips, visit the LA County Fire Department website, here.