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Fire Safety

Prevent holiday tree fires
Christmas trees, both real and artificial, are the items first ignited in an estimated average of 240 reported U.S. structure fires per year. These fires caused an average of 25 civilian deaths and $13.1 million in direct property damage per year. Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 15 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death.

According to the United States Fire Administration and the Santa Clara Fire Department, there are simple, life–saving steps you can take to greatly reduce your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.

Selecting a tree

  • Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.
  • The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
  • Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Caring for your tree

  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
  • Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of your tree:

  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
  • The best way to dispose of your tree is to take advantage of the City’s tree recycling program.

More holiday fire safety tips

  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.
  • Use only holiday lighting that has been listed by an approved testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.
  • Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
  • Make sure to periodically check the wires — they should not be warm to the touch.
  • Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
  • Candles can be dangerous. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.
  • Never leave candles burning unattended.
  • Never put lit candles on a tree.
  • Do not go near a holiday tree with an open flame — candles, lighters or matches.
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Last updated: 11/29/2010 10:40:46 AM