New Report Highlights Holiday Hazards

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 4:27am

A new report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an updated picture of the hazards some families encounter when decorating for the holidays.

The report analyzes data from fires that occurred between 2003 and 2007. Not surprisingly, the majority of holiday-related fires begin with Christmas trees.

U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 250 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees from 2003-2007. These fires caused an annual average of:

• 14 civilian fire deaths
• 26 civilian fire injuries
• $13.8 million in direct property damage

On average, one of every 18 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death.

The most common cause of Christmas tree structure fires was electrical problems (45%), followed by:

•A heat source too close to the Christmas tree (26%)
•Decorative lights (23%)
•Candles (14%)

Half of all home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.

More than one-third of home Christmas tree fires occurred in the ten days between Christmas Eve and the day after New Year's Day.

The good news is research conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that found that matches could not ignite Christmas trees that had been continuously standing in water. However, if a tree had dried to below the moisture recovery limit, it continued to dry out even if again placed in water.

The authors of the study conclude: "If proper procedures of cutting the stem and keeping it in plain water are followed by the consumer, data supports the position that the moisture content of the tree will likely be sufficient to make accidental ignition of the tree itself from matches, lighter, electric arc, or overheated wire very unlikely."


  • Lori Wirth608-266-5947