July 16, 2024
Annapolis, US 81 F

Stay safe this holiday with Christmas Tree safety tips from AACoFD

The Friday after Thanksgiving is well known for its impact on retail sales. Thanksgiving weekend is also the busiest weekend for live Christmas tree sales according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA). An estimated 25 to 30 million live trees will be sold nationwide this year, many of them this weekend.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately one-tenth of one percent (0.12%) of residential fires involve a Christmas tree, either real or artificial. Overall, the number of Christmas tree fires fell 80% from a high of 850 in 1980 to 170 in 2014, the lowest point in the available estimates. Christmas trees are not as likely to be the first item ignited in a residential fire as many other common household items including newspapers and magazines, boxes or bags and curtains and drapes.
Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires.
The NCTA offers the following tips for choosing a live tree:
  • Measure your space- Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the lot. Measure the ceiling height in the room where the tree will be displayed. The trees in the field look small, and it is easy to overbuy. Measure the width of the area of the room where the tree will be displayed. Most trees are trimmed to an 80% taper. So a tree that’s 10′ tall will be 8′ wide at the bottom. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be too big horizontally.
  • Ask questions about the trees- Ask the retailer when he/she gets the trees: are they delivered once at the beginning of the season, or several shipments during the season? Often, a tree obtained soon after its arrival on the retail lot will be very fresh because it was recently cut.
  • Do a branch/needle test for freshness- Run a branch through your enclosed hand – the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches – they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.
  • Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration- Indicators might include: excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark. A good rule-of-thumb is when in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot look fresh, go to another lot.
When a Christmas tree is cut, more than half its weight is water. With proper care, you can maintain the quality of your tree. Below are some tips on caring for your tree:
  • Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the most efficient way of maintaining freshness and minimizing needle loss problems.
  • To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand.
  • Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
  • Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake.
  • Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket that is kept full of water.
  • Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
  • Keep trees at least three feet away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
  • Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.
  • Always inspect light sets before placing them on the tree.
  • If worn, replace with a new set.Do not overload electrical circuits.
  • Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed.
  • Monitor the tree for freshness. After Christmas or if the tree is dry, remove it from the house.
Some fire safety practices are good year round. Install and ensure operation of smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home, including the basement.
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