Rockin’ [Safely] Around the Christmas Tree
As you deck the halls this season, don’t let everything you know about fire safety go up in flames. According to a report released by the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments across the country responded to an estimated average of 210 structure fires per year that started with Christmas trees. In the grand scheme of things, Christmas tree fires are not especially common, but when they do occur, an average of one out of every 34 resulted in a death, compared to one death per 142 total reported home fires—that’s a nearly 3% death rate compared to a rate of 0.7%.
Now we know that’s not very holly jolly, but the good news is, there’s plenty you can do to prevent a Christmas catastrophe.
Whether you’re going for a twelve-footer that will touch the cathedral ceiling or one of the Charlie Brown variety that will fit in in the corner of your studio apartment, be sure to pick out a tree that’s fresh—the needles should be nice and green and shouldn’t fall off when you touch them. Check near the trunk for dead, brown needles, and have the guys at the lot or farm shake them out before tying it to the car.
Placement is crucial when it comes to Christmas tree safety. Keep it at least three feet away from fireplaces, candles, radiators, heat vents, lamps, and anything else the produces heat. Don’t let it block any fire exits, and water it every day. A hydrated tree is a tree that’s much less likely to catch on fire.
We’ve come a long way since the days of decorating live trees with lit candles. Seriously, what were they thinking back then? When you stock up on discounted lights after the holidays, make sure you look past the 70% off sign—lights you string on your tree should be made specifically for indoors (many brands make indoor + outdoor lights). And when bulbs burst or the cord frays, resist the urge to try to fix it and invest in another set. Oh, and once the stockings are all hung by the chimney with care, be sure to turn off all the lights—otherwise you may wake up to the smell of smoke in the air.
Once you finally get around to taking that tree down, check your local area for details on drop-offs and pick-ups. Drop it off at a recycling center or make sure you drag it outside right before someone comes to pick it up. By the time it makes it to the driveway it’s usually pretty dried out, so you don’t to leave it outside unattended for too long. Or, find a use for it yourself—strip the needles and use the branches and trunk as firewood.
Speaking of firewood, let’s talk about some non-tree related safety tips for the winter holiday season.
- Keep all candles (menorahs, advent wreaths, giant decorate Yankee candles that smell like gingerbread or peppermint) away from curtains, upholstered furniture, and other decorations. And always, always blow out your candles before leaving the room.
- Take care as you’re hanging those stockings by the chimney. As cute as it looks in the picture books to have stockings just above a cozy, roaring fire, we don’t recommend taking that route. Either hang them somewhere else (on the banister, perhaps), or remove them from the mantel before even thinking about lighting a fire in the fireplace.
- Let’s not forget all the lights outside. Use clips instead of nails or staples to attach strings of lights to the house, and take note of the manufacturer’s instructions.
- As always, check your smoke detectors, especially before you fill your home with guests!
So go ahead—trim the tree, light the candles, deck the halls. Just don’t forget that fire safety should never take a holiday.