Keeping 'real' Christmas trees safe from fire

Keeping 'real' Christmas trees safe from fire

PASCO, Wash. — Fire leaders said the Tri-Cities only has about one Christmas tree fire a year, but they're still dangerous because they ignite fast, burn hot, and spread quick.

Expert Ben Shearer with the Pasco Fire Department said the latest statistics show one in 34 Christmas tree fires kill someone,

"They burn very hot, so other objects in your room will actually combust before the flames even get there because of the temperature of the Christmas tree burning."

The National Fire Prevention Association has a video showing how fast a dry Christmas tree can become an inferno; within 30 seconds the tree is unrecognizable, covered in enormous flames.

To prevent something like this from happening in your own home, Shearer recommends gently wiggling and twisting a few limbs of a tree before buying it,

"Play with the needles a little bit. If they fall off just when you barely touch them you know the tree is already drying out and its too late to really save that."

He said as soon as you get the tree home, cut a few inches from the base of the trunk and put it immediately in water,

"Through the whole season. As long as that tree is in your house it needs to be sitting in water. Check it [multiple] times a day. Whatever it takes."

Shearer also suggests replacing smoke detectors with the newer models built to last ten years.

He said simply pressing the button to test yours wont prove it works,

"All that really tests is the battery and the horn. It's not actually testing the sensors inside the alarm."

Shearer also suggests,

  • Choosing a location of your tree carefully. Place it away from radiators and fireplaces; even the draft from your heat vent can dry it out.
  • Avoid lighting candles or fires in the same room as the tree, it only takes one spark.
  • If you're unprepared for the upkeep of a live tree, consider buying an artificial one.

That's what he said his family did,

"We use an artificial tree just from that safety aspect. Christmas is a beautiful, wonderful, joyous time of year. But when you're looking at your burning Christmas tree, you're not laughing anymore, so we want to prevent that."

Shearer said if your family still prefers a live tree, you can buy a Christmas tree permit for $5 from the US Forest Service and chop it down yourself.

That way you'll know it's fresh.

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