It's not a jolly statistic. The U.S. Fire Administration reports 200 Christmas tree fires a year resulting in more than 30 deaths and injuries-and $6 million in property damage. Worn lighting cords, dry needles and branches tossed into the bright holiday fireplace, and overloaded electrical sockets turn a festive scene into a disaster. It takes only three seconds for a dry holiday tree to catch fire and just over a half minute later an entire room can flash into flames.
Home remodelers and do-it-yourselfers are often tempted to create holiday cheer with homespun tree and lighting effects. And while their creations are often connected to plenty of voltage, trees are too often denied adequate water. Dry Christmas trees are torches primed for ignition by shorted wires, open candle flames, or tossed matches. You can avoid these hazards with simple preventative care.
Preventing Tree and Lighting Fires
Plan your tree location with the same care you'd use in hanging your stockings. Never stand a tree in a container holding less than 7.6 liters of water. Don't put up your tree too early in the season and never locate it near a heat source, a heater vent, electrical appliance, or floor heater. Don't string any indoor holiday lights where they make direct contact with drapes, carpets, and furniture.
One fifth of all emergency room visits over the holidays are caused by burns from Christmas tree lights. Inspect all your holiday lighting for frayed cords, chipped or cracked sockets, or kinks in the length of cord. Resist temptation to wire up your own creation with materials that don't carry the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label. Light strings with green labels are restricted for indoor use, while you can hang cords with red UL labels inside or outdoors. Don't string cords through windows and doors with metal frames that can fray lines or cut power. And hang rooftop lighting with at least a full foot of clearance from existing power lines.
Go With LEDs
ENERGY STAR rated light emitting diode (LED) lights resist breakage and remain cooler to the touch than glass lights. Plus, you can save upwards of 90 percent of your holiday energy costs in keeping them lit through the season. According to The U.S. Department of Energy, the cost of lighting homes through the holidays could be reduced by $410 million if everyone switched to LED systems.
While you're at it, consider green gifting!