Tips on preventing Christmas tree fires in your home

(WSVN) - Christmas trees help bring the spirit of the holidays into your home, but hundreds of house fires each year start due to unwatered trees. Now federal safety officials have released a dramatic video showing why you should keep your Christmas tree watered in order to prevent a house fire.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released the video, showing a side-by-side comparison with two trees on fire: one that has been watered, and one that is dry.

While the fire in the watered tree does not spread, the dry tree becomes fully engulfed in flames in under 10 seconds, causing major damage.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, over 200 house fires each year are started due to a Christmas tree, causing an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in property damage annually.

The NFPA says that 40 percent of Christmas tree fires happen because of electrical distribution or lighting equipment, while 25 percent start because of a heat source that is placed too close to a tree.

To avoid a Christmas tree fire, the NFPA offers the following tips:

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least 3 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.
  • 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.

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