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Playing it safe this holiday season

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez
Published On: Dec 08 2012 05:38:48 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 08 2012 06:43:20 PM CST

Statistics show one out of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Christmas trees account for 200 fires every year and more than $6 million in property damage.

Fire experts said one of the major causes is Christmas lights.

Statistics show one out of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems. Dried out trees and plastic trees are more vulnerable to igniting.

"Most of your house fires, 42% of them, occur between December 23 to January 3 and that's when your tree is drying out and we still have lights on them and that's what causes the fire," said Denise Herbst, Home Depot associate.

LED lights remain a lot cooler when lit compared to incandescent lights.

It's also important to safeguard your tree by throwing it out when the needles start to fall and positioning it away from the fireplace -- at least five feet away. If your Christmas tree is real, also make sure it has plenty of water.

"Real trees can drink up to a gallon of water a day, so you really want to make sure to check on them first thing in the morning, when the kids get home from school and then before you go to bed, just to make sure to fill it up," said PJ Holm, YMCA tree lot coordinator.

Of course, having products like a fire extinguisher and functioning smoke detectors is a must, especially this time of year.  

"One in five smoke detectors isn't working in people's houses," said Herbst. "That's either because the batteries are dead or they've been pulled out because people find them annoying, but that means they're not being protected."

Smoke detectors need to be placed outside of every bedroom in the house and replaced every 10 years.

Far more common than tree fires this time of year are candle fires.

Fire officials said it's important to  trim the wick to a quarter inch before lighting and never leave them unattended or within reach of kids or pets.

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