Based on data from 2003 through 2007 fire departments responded to an estimated 250 home fires annually that began with Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of 14 civilian deaths, 26 civilian injuries, and $13.8 million in direct property damage. On average, one of 18 reported Christmas tree fires resulted in a death.
Home fire sprinklers can make a difference reducing this risk as evidenced by a fire in Frederick County, MD that displaced the Mansfield family but enabled them to escape with their lives. As reported in the Frederick News Post "the fire started in the Christmas tree, which burned quickly causing the residential fire sprinkler system to activate." According to Mike Dmuchowski, spokesman for the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services "had the home not had a residential fire sprinkler system, the damage would have been much worse."
Christmas tree fires spread very rapidly, much more so than other ordinary combustibles, providing occupants very little time to escape. Various Christmas tree fire demonstrations, including the difference a home fire sprinkler can make, may be viewed at the NIST website
Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season