Tips and procedures to avoid Christmas tree fires this holiday season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Every year, fire departments respond to an average of 210 Christmas tree fires per year.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports that this risk is dangerous and costly. 

"These fires cause an annual average of 6 civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in property damage," writes NIST. "The good news is that by keeping your Christmas tree watered, you can enjoy the holidays with a beautiful and safer Christmas tree."

Here's their tips to reduce the risk of Christmas tree fires in your home. 

  • Choose a healthy tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Immediately before placing a tree in its stand, cut 5 cm (2 in.) from the base of the trunk; this can help the tree to draw up water. If the cut surface is allowed to dry, it will reduce the water uptake to the tree.
  • Always keep the tree well-watered. Make sure to check the water level in the stand daily.
  • Make sure that the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source (e.g. space heaters, candles, fireplaces, heat vents, or lights).
  • Make sure that the tree does not block an exit.
  • Only use decorative lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Make sure light bulbs, strings, and connections are not broken or damaged in any way.
  • Always turn off tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry and keep it away from your home/garage. Of the ten days with the largest shares of Christmas tree fires, none were before Christmas.
  • Check with your local community to find a recycling program.

To bring awareness to holiday fire safety, Clay Fire Department continues their "Keep the Wreath Red" initiative, lasting from November 23 to New Year's Day, January 1, 2024. 

Clay Fire Department

15 years of fire awareness continues as the department teams up with five others across the country, hanging wreaths wrapped in red lights in front of each station. 

The wreath, as a signal to the public, enacts a simple plan: 

Each time there's a fire, that could have been prevented by following fire safety guidelines, a red bulb will be changed to white. 

The goal is to keep all bulbs red. 

To help you keep your home safe and fire free during the holidays, Clay Fire Department offers important fire safety tips. 

  • Don’t leave any food located on cooking surfaces unattended.
  • Keep the stovetop clear of any flammable items.
  • Have a fire extinguisher close by; never use water on a grease fire.
  • In case of fire, turn off the heat and close the door.
  • Always use large deep fryers used for cooking turkeys outside, and a safe distance from buildings.
  • Smoke detectors should be installed on all levels of a house, especially by sleeping areas. They should be replaced every 10 years.

Take this time to check all your smoke detectors and review emergency plans if a fire occurs. 

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