For Immediate Release: December 20, 2011
Keep Your Holidays from Going Up in Flames
Fire Marshal urges vigilance with Christmas trees, electrical cords
Raleigh -- Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin is reminding North Carolinians to stay focused on fire safetyespecially when it comes to the Christmas trees standing in their homes.
"As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired," said Goodwin. "That's when home fires are more likely to occur."
According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded annually to an average of 250 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Nearly half of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat source that was too close to the tree.
"By following simple rules of thumb, most home fires involving Christmas trees can be prevented," Goodwin added.
He offered the following safety tips:
- Make sure the tree you select is fresh; the trunk should be sticky to the touch and branches should not easily snap when you bend them. Shake the tree and make sure not too many loose needles fall off as a result. (Tip: Before bringing your tree indoors, make a 1/2 fresh cut on the bottom of trunk and let it stand in a bucket of water outside for 12 hours before bringing indoors and placing in its stand.)
- Check the water in the tree stand daily, make sure your tree isn't blocking any exits and keep it at least three feet away from heat vents or other heat sources.
- If you have an artificial tree, be sure it's labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
- Make sure all decorations are flame-retardant or flame-resistant.
- Do not overload extension cords and electrical outlets.
- 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.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
- After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
- Check your town or city's waste management website for information about tree recycling.
- In the event that a fire does occur in your home, make sure that you have working smoke alarms that will give everyone in your home the time needed to get out safely; be sure that family and overnight guests know the sound of your alarm and have practiced your home escape plan.
For more information about fire prevention and safety, go to the North Carolina Department of Insurance and Office of State Fire Marshal Web site, or to the Web site of the National Fire Protection Association.