By Fire Inspector Angela Sanders, Federal Fire Department
Don't let Christmas ever heat up too much, with fire that is. Did you know that Christmas trees alone result in 13 million dollars annually in property damage? More importantly, these fires present a real risk to family and friends.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Code NFPA 1 permits fresh/artificial trees in the following occupancy types with an automatic sprinkler system: business, day care, industrial, mercantile, one and two family dwellings, and storage areas. Trees of any type are prohibited in the following occupancy types: assembly, board and care, detention and correctional, dormitories, educational, and hotels. Health care facilities are allowed only artificial trees with a UL listed certification.
“When showcasing a live tree in your business or home, the combination of tree dryness, electrical malfunction with lights, and poorly located heating sources can make for a deadly combination” said Prevention Chief Jeffrey Fernaays.
Following these few simple tips to ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season:
Picking the tree:
- If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
- Choose a tree with fresh, vibrant green needles that do not fall off when touched.
Placing the tree:
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1–2” from the base of the trunk.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights.
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
- Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily. If a fire inspector sees a tree with a large quantity of falling needles and no water, the occupant will be advised to remove the tree immediately.
Lighting the tree:
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory such as UL or FM approved.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so cords are not damaged.
- Some lights are designed only for indoor or outdoor use. Any lights used outdoors must be labeled suitable for exterior placement and must be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in type lights.
- Do not attach any holiday decorations to fire sprinkler heads or the piping that supports the sprinkler system.
- Candles are prohibited in government buildings.
- At home, keep all candles away from Christmas trees, furniture, and decorations. Never use lit candles to decorate a tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
After the holiday season is over, prompt removal and proper disposal of a live tree shall be a priority for all. The longer a tree is in a facility the higher the fire risk becomes. Dried-out trees should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Most trees have a two week life span once placed in a tree stand. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Outdoor electrical lights should be brought inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and to make them last longer.
For more information about the Federal Fire Department, contact (808) 471-8019.