Christmas is such a joyful time of year. Everyone looks forward to sharing the traditions that make the season so special. Beautiful Christmas trees always stand tall at the center of our festivities.
Whether you bring home a Douglas fir or a Scotch pine, it fills the house with good cheer and a wonderful fragrance. It shouldn’t be a source of worry.
Unfortunately, Christmas tree fires cause approximately $10 million in property damages every year.
Our teams here at ServiceMaster by Lake Shore restore fire-damaged homes in Chicago every holiday season. We don’t want it to happen to you. We know you take precautions, but double-check your routine this year.
Our fire safety tips for Christmas trees can help.
Why Do Christmas Trees Catch Fire?
A fresh Christmas tree might not seem flammable, but it has the potential to cause extensive damage. The woody trunk and branches are porous, so the material quickly circulates oxygen during combustion.
That results in a rapid burn that generates intense heat energy. A fire that originates from a Christmas tree can easily flashover and consume an entire room.
These are the three most common reasons for Christmas tree fires:
- The tree isn’t watered regularly.
- Tree lights become electrical hazards.
- The tree is too close to a heat source.
While Christmas tree fires seem easy to avoid, it’s also easy to get distracted during the holidays. You can’t fireproof the Christmas tree, but you can keep your home safer with these simple tips.
15 Christmas Fire Safety Tips for Chicago Residents
Christmas Tree Selection
1. Buy It Fresh
Fresh Christmas trees look and smell healthy, with soft, flexible needles. Confirm a tree’s condition by tugging on a branch. If the needles come off easily, the tree is already drying out.
Power Tip: Time your purchase. Freshly cut trees will last two to four weeks, so don’t buy too early.
2. Trim the Base
Cut 2 inches off the trunk base before securing the tree in its stand. This allows it to draw up water and stay hydrated through the holidays.
Make sure the cut stays clean between trimming and final positioning in the Christmas tree stand.
Power Tip: Many tree lot vendors will trim the base for you, so be sure to ask.
Tree Setup at Home
3. Give It Plenty of Water
It’s critical to keep the Christmas tree well-hydrated 24/7. The intensity of a fire between watered vs not watered trees is very dramatic. Once it’s set up, the tree will take in a surprising amount of water the first few hours.
Check the well in the tree stand several times a day. Most Christmas trees need at least one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter every 24 hours. Make refills easier with a long-spout watering can.
4. Be Careful With Location
Place the tree off your beaten paths. Give it space away from foot traffic, especially if there are kids or pets in the house.
This reduces the chance of an accident that could damage tree lights, tangle electric cords or topple the tree.
5. Beware of Heat Sources
An open flame near a Christmas tree can quickly turn into a holiday disaster. Make sure your tree is positioned at least 3 feet from any flame or heat source, including:
- Lit candles
- The fireplace
- Floor lamps
- Furnace vents
- Space heaters
Safe Decorating Tips
6. Use Safe Lights
Always decorate the tree with lights that are certified safe by a recognized testing laboratory.
Quality Christmas lights display this certification on the packaging. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations too.
7. Double-Check Old Decorations
Take a good look at older Christmas decorations that use electricity, including that bright tree-topper ornament. Inspect light strands for damaged cords and loose bulb connections.
Check each string, replace problem bulbs and make sure fuses are operating properly.
8. Don’t Overload Circuits
Extension cords and power strips can quickly become overloaded and spark a fire. Give the equipment the same close inspection you gave the decorations.
Don’t use cords or power strips that appear worn or damaged.
Power Tip: Touch-test electrical cords and strips several times a day, and immediately disconnect any that feel warm.
9. Don’t Hide Tangled Hazards
The connections between light strings and power sources can turn into a tangled mess. Don’t hide them under the tree skirt or area rugs.
Keep cords straightened out and out from under flammable materials.
10. Unplug the Tree Lights
Let the Christmas tree lights cool off when you go to bed or leave the house for any length of time. Unplug them at the power source.
Remove plugs from wall sockets, and hit the off-switch on power strips.
11. Beware of Flammable Decorations
Christmas tree lights and tinsel strands can be a dangerous combination.
The shiny decorations are made from flammable PVC, so save them for non-electrical displays.
Never use candles on or around the tree. Even decorations on wrapped gifts under low branches can add to the risk of a fire.
12. Transition to LED Lights
Reduce the chance of a Christmas tree fire by switching to LED lights.
Older incandescent bulbs operate with a filament that generates heat. LED lights stay cool to the touch, they last longer and they’re easier on the environment.
Christmas Tree Disposal
13. Know When to Say Goodbye
As the holidays wind down, it’s tempting to leave decorations up. Still, the tree naturally dries out, and the risk of an accidental fire increases.
Brown or dropping needles are sure signs that it’s time to say goodbye to the Christmas tree.
Power Tip: Most trees that still look fresh at four weeks are ready for disposal.
14. Don’t Try to Do It Yourself
Christmas trees aren’t meant to become fuel for the fireplace or a wood stove.
Don’t try to convert a combustible tree into a woodpile that you can use to warm up inside or even outside in a fire pit.
15. Recycle for a Happy Ending
If you can’t dispose of it right away, make sure the Christmas tree isn’t stored near the house or a detached garage.
Give the holidays a happy ending by recycling your tree through Chicago’s Holiday Tree Recycling program.
Dealing With Fire Damage in Chicago? Turn to ServiceMaster of Lake Shore.
ServiceMaster of Lake Shore wants you to stay safe this Christmas. Check smoke alarms, practice your home fire evacuation plan, and keep our number close just in case.
We take care of residents in the Loop, Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square and many suburbs, including Glenview, Wilmette, Winnetka, Northbrook, Evanston and more.
If the worst should happen, you can depend on us to respond 24/7 with Chicago’s best fire damage restoration services. From our family to yours, we wish you the happiest holidays and a wonderful New Year.
Our ServiceMaster of Lake Shore pros are standing by 24/7, ready for your call: 312-707-8597