As I was driving home last night, I was a little surprised to see how many homes still have Christmas trees inside. I get it – it’s tough to say goodbye to the season and pack away the decorations. But there’s good reason to part ways with your Christmas tree once the holidays are over: One-third (33 percent) of U.S. home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January.
Christmas trees are combustible items that become increasingly flammable as they continue to dry. The longer a tree is in the home, the more of a fire hazard it becomes. Sure, all Christmas trees can burn, but a dried out tree can become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. The tragic Christmas tree fires that have occurred in recent years, which have resulted in deadly consequences for multiple family members, including young children, gravely bare this out.
NFPA statistics show that Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they do occur, they’re much more likely to be serious. On annual average, one of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to one death per 139 total reported home structure fires.
NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program for tree disposal, if possible; trees should not be put in the garage or left outside. We also offer these tips for safely removing lighting and decorations and storing them properly to ensure that they’re in good condition the following season:
- Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire.
- As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
- Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.
- Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.