Dried out Christmas tree

With nearly one-third of Christmas tree fires occurring in January, prompt removal from homes is critical

Saying goodbye to your Christmas tree may not be easy, but here’s a compelling reason to remove it as soon as possible: Nearly one-third (31 percent) of U.S. home fires that begin with Christmas trees occurs in January. The longer a natural tree is kept up after Christmas, the more likely it is to dry out and ignite; a dried-out tree can become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. That’s why we’re strongly encouraging people to remove Christmas trees from their homes promptly after the holiday season.

For this year in particular, when many people began decorating their homes earlier than usual, trees have been in homes for several weeks, presenting an increased fire risk as the days go by.

NFPA’s latest Christmas Tree Fires report, which reflects annual averages between 2014 and 2018, shows that 160 home structure fires began with Christmas trees, resulting in two civilian deaths, 14 civilian injuries, and $10.3 million in direct property damage. According to the report, fires that begin with Christmas trees are a very small but notable part of the U.S. fire problem, considering that they are generally in use for a short time each year.

Some Christmas tree fires occur in chimneys or flues, suggesting that people may burn the tree to dispose of it. With these concerns in mind, the U.S. Forest Service offers this caution: “Never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove! Pines, firs and other evergreens have a high content of flammable turpentine oils and burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup and risk a chimney fire.”

To safely dispose of a Christmas tree, NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program, if possible; trees should not be put in the garage or left outside. Also, following are tips for safely removing lighting and decorations and storing them properly to ensure that they’re in good condition the following season:

  • Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire.
  • As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.
  • Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.

For more information on home fire safety all winter long, visit “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires,” a winter safety campaign NFPA promotes annually with the U.S. Fire Administration.

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Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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