12 Days of Holiday Safety: Day 4 = Tree Safety Throughout the Season

December 16, 2013

Chances are, if you have a Christmas tree in your home, it’s already up and decorated. U.S. fire departments respond to an estimated annual average of 200+ home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. Although these fires are not common, when they do occur, they are unusually likely to be serious.
Electrical failures or malfunctions were involved in one-third of the home Christmas tree structure fires. One in six occurred because some type of heat source was too close to the tree; mostly decorative lights or candles.
The risk of fire is higher with natural trees than artificial ones. Still, researchers found that there is a lot homeowners can do to maintain safety with natural tree. Dry natural trees burn easily but trees that are kept moist are unlikely to catch fire unintentionally. Using cooler lighting, such as LED lights, also slows the drying process and makes your home safer.
It turns out Christmas tree safety is just as important – perhaps more important – after the holidays. That's because the longer Christmas trees are in the home, the more they dry out and become fire hazards. So in addition to keeping trees well-hydrated during the season, it's important to monitor the tree and dispose of it before it becomes dry enough to pose a hazard.
The most common time frame for Christmas tree structure fires are the 15 days from December 22 through January 5.
When it's time to take the tree down, get it outside and away from your house. In Madison, there are plenty of options for Christmas tree disposal through the Streets Division.
Don’t try to burn your tree in the fireplace. Needles and the pitch in the wood create fast-burning, fast-moving sparks that can jump right out of the fireplace and into your room, or up the chimney and onto the shingles. The combination causes flames, heat and smoke to pour out of a fireplace opening with no warning. And the fire from a Christmas tree burns so hot that you’re likely to damage the firebox and the chimney.
The Streets Division has scheduled curbside pick-up of Christmas trees on January 6 and 21. Residents should:

  1. Remove all tree stands regardless of whether they are metal or wood.
  2. Remove all light strings, ornaments and other metal objects.
  3. Remove any tree bags.
  4. Place trees at the street edge only.
  5. If trees become buried under snow residents are asked to dig out trees.
  6. Wreaths, evergreen rope, garlands, and boughs will NOT be collected with holiday trees. These items should be placed with your tan refuse cart.

Another reminder: Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.