The holiday season might be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. Between Christmas trees, lights, and other decorations there are many things that can pose a fire risk in the home. To illustrate these dangers, the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering held a Christmas tree fire demonstration last week.
According to ABC 7 WJLA, the demonstration showed that a dry Christmas tree can catch completely on fire in as few as 30 seconds, but even wet and artificial trees can burn quickly. There are typically between 250 and 300 Christmas tree fires in the U.S. each year, and they are about 3.5 times more deadly than a regular house fire.
Julie Chavanne of the Electrical Safety Foundation International told NBC affiliate WBAL TV 11 that December 22 through January 5 is one of the most dangerous times of year, and offered a few tips for fire prevention in the home.
The reason that the coming weeks are the most dangerous of the holiday season is that, according to Chavanne, half of tree fires happen between December 22 and January 5. Chavanne recommends watering a Christmas tree every to ensure that the branches and needles do not dry out and become more flammable. Christmas trees should also be checked for indications of drying out, such as brown or falling needles, or other discoloration.
One of the most common hazards when it comes to Christmas decorations is lights, which can produce enough heat to ignite a tree. Chavanne recommends not using more than three strands of lights on a tree, especially if they are incandescent bulbs. Switching to LED lights is safer, since they run cooler than incandescent lights do. LED (light emitting diodes) not only run cooler than traditional incandescent lights, but they are also very energy efficient. According to Consumer Reports, LEDs use 90% less electricity than incandescent bulbs.
Chavanne says that battery-operated candles should be used in place of open-flame candles, and these and string lights should be turned off periodically to avoid overheating. Additionally, it’s important to test smoke detectors in the home once a month to make sure they are operating correctly. Families should also make sure that they go over an evacuation route in the event of a house fire.
Keeping the home safe over the holiday season essentially comes down to being attentive to the types of decorations and how they are being used. Opting for cool-running LEDs rather than incandescent lights, avoiding open flames, and monitoring smoke detectors can all prevent Christmas tree fires and deaths, so this time of the year can just go back to being wonderful.