The State Fire Marshal’s Office would like to remind citizens to be fire safe with their holiday decorations this season, especially Christmas trees. If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, keep the tree well-watered. Improper care and decoration of a live or artificial tree can lead to catastrophic fires. “It takes only seconds for a tree to ignite and the entire room to become engulfed in flames,” says State Fire Marshal Chuck Duffy.
By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can ensure a safe and happy holiday:
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
- Selecting a tree for the holiday. Needles on a freshly cut tree should be green and hard to pull back from the branches; the needles should not break. A dried out tree can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground, if many needles fall off, the tree has dried out and is a fire hazard.
- Caring for your tree. Before setting up your tree, cut the base at a 45-degree angle and place in water. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Place tree at least 3 feet away from heat sources. Fireplaces and heat vents, radiators, and space heaters will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flames or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
- Maintain your holiday lights. Use only lighting that has been listed by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). 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. Never connect more than three strands of lights sets.
- Do not overload electrical outlets. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet; never linking more than 3 strands together at a time. Flickering lights, tripped circuit breakers, and blown fuses are warning signs that your home’s electrical outlets may be overloaded.
- Use only non-flammable decorations. All decorations should be non-flammable or flame-retardant.
- Artificial Christmas Trees. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is a Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, providing fire and life safety services to the citizens of Washington State including inspections of state licensed facilities, plan review of school construction projects, licensing of fire sprinkler contractors and pyrotechnic operators, training Washington States firefighters, and collecting emergency response data.