Sprinkler demostration

Holiday Heads Up - New Hampshire Holiday Demonstration Highlights Safety Concerns Around Artificial Christmas Trees

With Thanksgiving behind us, gifts and decorations for the December holidays are the next subject on people’s minds. We consistently see increases in home fires during this time of year, so in our Holiday Heads-Up series, we will focus on a different topic of seasonal fire safety each week. Today we turn to Christmas trees, a popular tradition in many households. Artificial Christmas trees appeal for their convenience, but they bring their own fire risk concerns. A demonstration in New Hampshire with the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) highlighted this risk in a side-by-side house fire demonstration, emphasizing the need for caution during the holidays.

Flashover—when everything ignites and no one can survive—can happen in as little as two minutes. In the demonstration, two mock living rooms caught fire from a heating element, sending the identical fake tree, decorations, couch, and presents aflame. While Christmas tree fires are uncommon, they can be very serious. A natural tree is three times more likely to cause a fire than an artificial one, but as we can see in the demonstration, that risk is not to be underestimated.

In the event of a fire, working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers will increase occupants’ chances of escape and start controlling the flames before first responders arrive. It is best to install sprinklers during initial home construction, but retrofitting is also possible, with the cost of sprinklers in new homes adding around $1.35 per square foot. Use this safety sheet to inform members of your community about the benefits of home fire sprinklers.

Remember these tips when decorating with trees for the holidays:

  • Only use artificial trees certified by a testing organization

  • Maintain a distance of at least three feet between heating elements and Christmas trees

  • Keep electrical decorations and lights in good condition

  • Make sure your tree doesn’t block any exits

  • Never use candles to decorate a tree

Review this Winter Holiday Safety tip sheet for more recommendations on how to decorate safely this holiday season. To learn more about home fire sprinklers and how to get them in your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

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Cierra Thompson
Public Affairs Intern

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