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Nov 29
Christmas Trees Do Not Start Fires

If the fear of fire is keeping you from having a real Christmas tree this year, don't let it, says Dr. Ken Tilt, a horticulturist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Real Christmas trees simply cannot cause fires, he says. The trees themselves are not the cause of tragic holiday fires, Tilt says.  Such fires are caused by external sources, such as electrical outlets, frayed electrical cords and lamps.
According to the National Fire Protection Associations published material, electrical causes and lamps were responsible for starting almost half of structure fires involving Christmas trees.
Almost 25 percent of the fires were caused by various open flames, sparks and embers, Tilt says.  The remaining fires were started by a variety of ignition sources, including gas-fueled equipment and cigarettes. These figures sound intimidating, but let’s consider how many incidents of Christmas tree fires actually occur each year, Tilt says. 
Every year, articles of alarm are posted in the newspapers over potential fire hazards from Christmas trees.  There is a possibility of Christmas trees catching on fire, but the reality is that the incidence of such fires is extremely rare.  Of the 33 million live Christmas trees bought in the United States, fewer than one-one thousandth of a percent are involved in a residential fire.
Tilt says both live and artificial Christmas trees were involved in fires, but both have less fire hazard potential than many other household items.
Newspapers and magazines were found to be 13 times more likely to burn first, Tilt says.  Boxes or bags are10 times more likely to ignite.
Curtains, linens, cleaning supplies, and clothing on a person all had greater fire hazard potential. Christmas tree fires do occur, Tilt says, but the odds of them happening are slim.
The movie Jaws made many people shy of the water, he says.  Don’t let the hype of Christmas tree fires spoil your holiday traditions.  If you follow some commonsense precautions, the danger of fire is very remote.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, these simple steps can help guard against holiday fires, Tilt says.
** Select the freshest-looking real tree available.  Once home, make a fresh cut across the trees base and immediately place it in water.
** Keep the trees water container full at all times, checking the water level daily.
Be extra careful with electricity, all open flames and other heat sources during the holidays.
** Check all Christmas tree lights, other electric decorations and electrical appliances for wear (frayed cords, etc.)  Do not use lights, decorations or appliances with worn electrical cords.  Use only UL-approved electrical decorations and extension cords.
** Place the Christmas tree far away from heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.
** Unplug tree lights and other decorations when out of the room or while sleeping.

** Regularly check the tree for dryness.  If the needles fall off when you touch them or the stems break off when you bend them, your tree may be dry.  Check the water level. If it is low, add water.  If not, its time to take down the tree.

Enjoy this Christmas with a real tree from one of your local farms or nurseries.

Dr. Ken Tilt, Extension Horticulturist, 334-844-5484.


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