January 31, 2023
Annapolis, US 38 F

Artificial tree cause of Annapolis Yacht Club fire

Photo: Brian Meyer, Capital SUP
Photo: Brian Meyer, Capital SUP

Earlier today, the Annapolis Fire Department’s Fire Investigation Bureau concluded their investigation on the cause and origin of the December 12, 2015 fire at the Annapolis Yacht Club at 2 Compromise Street.

After an extensive investigation, including interviews and a review of physical evidence in the area of origin, the Annapolis Fire Investigation Bureau has determined that the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction with a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree.

Damage estimates to the building exceed 9 million dollars.

“We have seen two unfortunate fire tragedies during this year’s holiday season as a result of Christmas tree fires” says Fire Chief David L. Stokes. “This past January our community suffered the tragic loss of members of the Pyle and Boone families from a Christmas tree fire. I’m very concerned that yet another Christmas tree fire has had a major impact on our community. There is still a lot of holiday season left. I urge the community to be mindful of the potential dangers of holiday decorations and the practice of good fire safety habits.”

“While I know many Annapolitans are still dealing with the aftermath of this devastating fire, I hope we will be able to help others to avoid such a tragedy through this sharing safety information, “Mayor Michael Pantelides said.

Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. One of every three home Christmas Tree fires are caused by an electrical problem. A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every four of the fires.

Here are some general Christmas Tree safety tips from the Annapolis Fire Department:


Picking the tree

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Placing the tree

  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2″ from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree

  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas

  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas. Dried out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.


  • Buy only trees that have been tested for fire resistance by an approved independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).
  • Inspect your artificial Christmas tree for frayed wires and cracked sockets. If you see any of these things, the best thing you can do is discard the tree.
  • If using stringed lights, Use only lights that have been tested by an approved independent testing laboratory, such as UL or FM. Replace any lights that are worn or frayed.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets, and never plug more strands of lights together then recommended by the light manufacturer.
  • Do not hide extension cords under a rug.
  • Do not place the tree between the occupants and the exit.
  • Keep in mind while the tree may be flame retardant or flame resistive, many times the decorations are not.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

For more information on holiday fire safety, contact the Annapolis Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office at 410-260-2202

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