Christmas tree decorating

Christmas Trees Present Potential Fire Hazards; Enjoy Them with Care and Caution

For many households, Christmas trees are as much a staple of the holiday season as eggnog on grocery store shelves. But for all the joy they bring, it’s important to remember that Christmas trees are large combustible items that present potential fire hazards in the home. Fire departments responded to an annual average of 160 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees between 2014 and 2018, resulting in $10 million in direct property damage.

Fires involving fresh Christmas trees tend to be more common than those involving artificial ones. Fresh Christmas trees dry out over time, making them more flammable the longer they’re in the home. As this video shows, a dried-out Christmas tree will burn much more quickly than a well-watered tree:

Our Christmas tree safety tip sheet offers tips and recommendations for safely enjoying Christmas trees this season. Following are some of the key reminders:

  • For a fresh tree, cut 2” from the base of the trunk before placing it in the stand. Add water to the tree stand daily to keep them well hydrated.
  • Trees should be placed 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, such as a door or window.
  • Ensure that decorative lights are in good working order and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Also, NFPA’s new Christmas tree report is now available, providing the latest statistics on Christmas tree fires in U.S. homes, including these key findings (which reflect annual averages between 2014 and 2018): 

  • Christmas tree fires are more common during the hours when people are awake, peaking between 6 p.m. and midnight.
  • More than two of every five home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
  • Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in almost one-third (thirty-one percent) of Christmas tree fires.
  • In more than one-fifth (22 percent) of Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.

For additional information and resources on how to safely deck the halls this holiday season that can be shared online, through social media and/or as printouts, visit our winter holidays page.

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James Monahan
James Monahan
Public Affairs Intern

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