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Early Start to Christmas Tree ‘Season’ Increases Risk for Home Fires

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it has been for weeks now, as many people try to spread some cheer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. One holiday staple – the Christmas tree – has been popping up on top of cars and in windows everywhere much earlier than in typical years, extending the trees’ inside display time to six weeks or more by the time Christmas Day arrives. However, this extended display time actually increases the potential for live Christmas trees to become fire hazards.
AAA Mid-Atlantic urges everyone to prioritize safety when transporting a Christmas tree and preventing it from becoming a fire hazard. According to the American Red Cross, home fires can happen at any time, but they generally increase during the fall and winter, with December and January being the peak months.
“If not properly secured, a tree can cause vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals, distorted window frames, or even worse, it could fly off the vehicle and become a danger to other drivers,” said Morgan Dean, a Senior Specialist in Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “In addition to safely transporting a Christmas tree, we urge those displaying live trees in their homes for the holidays take care of it properly to avoid having it dry out and become a fire hazard.”
Christmas Tree Fire Prevention
Once the Christmas tree reaches its holiday home safely, proper placement and decorations are key to prevent a devastating house fire. The National Fire Protection Association reports that although Christmas tree fires are rare, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious:
  • Between 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year.
  • These fires caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10.3 million in direct property damage annually.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 45 percent of home Christmas tree fires.
  • In more than one-fifth (22 percent) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
“Christmas time is such a great time to make our home look beautiful and festive,” said Battalion Chief Doug Reynolds with the Henrico County Division of Fire.  “But if you decide to use a real Christmas tree, be sure to pick a healthy one, water it daily, turn off the lights when you go to bed and most importantly, have a working smoke detector.”
Henrico Division of Fire and AAA Insurance offer the following tips to reduce the risk of a house fire this Christmas.
  • Make sure the Christmas tree is at least three feet away from any heat source (fireplace, radiator, candles, heat vents, or lights)
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to your tree daily.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Never use lit candles to light the tree.
  • Always turn off the lights on the tree before going to bed or leaving home.

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