While this is the time of year for celebration and joy, it’s important to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe over the holidays. Yesterday, Maryland officials released a statement regarding the December 12th fire that occurred at the Annapolis Yacht Club. Fire investigators concluded the fire that caused over $9 million in damages to the beloved Maryland staple was caused by an electrical malfunction with a pre-lit Christmas tree. This is another reminder to be mindful of the possible dangers that can result from holiday decorations – real and artificial trees alike.

Captain John Bowes of the Annapolis Fire Department advises that checking fire hazards year after year should become part of the decorating tradition. “People have to be cognizant of their electrical appliances at Christmas time such as Christmas lights and other electrical things,” he says. “After a couple of years, if they are showing wear and tear or fraying and anything like that, you have to throw them away.”

Christmas tree fires are more common than you might think. According to the National Fire Protection Association, US fire departments respond to an average of 230 home Christmas tree fires per year, which result in an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage annually. In addition, one in every three Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical issues and one in six is caused by a heat source that is too close to the Christmas tree.

But, don’t despair. There are many things you can do to help ensure the safety of your loved ones and home, including:

  • If you have a live tree, make sure that it has fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Also, make sure that you water it daily!
  • If you choose an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
  • Do not block exits with your tree.
  • Keep your tree at least three feet from any heat source (fireplace, radiators, candles, heat vents, etc.).
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree!
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Also, make sure to dispose of the tree when it starts to drop its needles.  Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or in the garage.

Finally, from the entire Harrington Group team, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!