Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. Carefully decorating your home can help make your holidays safer.
Picking the tree
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
Placing the tree
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2" from the base of the trunk.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
- Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
Lighting the tree
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer's instructions for number of light strands to connect.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Get rid of the tree after Christmas. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
Watch this NFPA video for help creating the holiday atmosphere you love, and the security of knowing you’re keeping yourself and your family and friends safer from fire.
Research and statistics
- Between 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 210 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage annually.
- Overall, Christmas tree fires fell a total of 80% from a high of 850 in 1980 to 170 in 2014, the lowest point in the available estimates.
- On average, one of every 34 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires.
- Some type of electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in one-third (35%) of home Christmas tree fires.
- Twenty-three percent of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
- Forty-three percent of reported home Christmas tree fires occurred in December and 37% were reported in January.
- Two of every five (38%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
Source: "Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees," NFPA, November 2016.
NFPA's Dan Doofus shows you how to have a fire-safe holiday with a few simple safety tips.
A live Christmas tree burn conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows just how quickly a dried out Christmas tree fire burns, with flashover occurring in less than one minute, as compared to a well-watered tree, which burns at a much slower rate.