State Fire Marshal’s Office Issues Warnings on Christmas Trees

December 20, 2008

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding Tennesseans with natural, fresh-cut Christmas trees in their homes to take care to keep them in water, in light of the fire risk posed when they are allowed to dry out.

“The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that there is an estimated annual average of 210 home structure fires that begin with Christmas trees,” says State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Leslie A. Newman. “Properly maintaining a cut Christmas tree’s moisture content of more than 100 percent by keeping it in water significantly reduces the chance that its needles will dry out and pose a fire hazard.”

NFPA studies also have found that, on average, one of every nine Christmas tree fires causes a fatality, compared with an average of one death per 75 non-confined home fires. Fires involving Christmas trees cause 94 percent of those related fatalities when they spread beyond the room where the fire begins, which is 49 percent of the time.

“We’re in the midst of the winter holiday season,” Newman says. “It’s imperative – amid the hustle and bustle of holiday events – that residents remember to practice good fire safety and make sure to never leave trees near heat sources, especially dried-out trees.”

To illustrate the short time in which a dry, cut Christmas tree can catch fire and engulf a room in flames, the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s office is distributing links to two videos produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
* http://fire.nist.gov/videotest/xmasTreeVideos/comparison_wetdry.wmv – side-by-side comparison of the burn rates of a properly maintained tree and a dried-out tree
http://fire.nist.gov/videotest/xmasTreeVideos/tree_fire.mpg – tree fire spreading throughout a room.

For further information on protecting your home from fire hazards, particularly during the winter months, visit www.tn.gov/commerce/sfm or call 615-741-2981.

The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee.

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