Every Christmas season, we get reports of fires caused by dried-out Christmas trees, unsafe electrical equipment or other unsafe conditions. For example, within 1 day during the 2017 Christmas season, there were two Christmas tree-related fires in the GTA. As a result, the Toronto fire department issued a warning that residents should be very careful with live trees. Fire chief, Stephan Powell, pointed out that dried out trees are “an accident waiting to happen” – trees are extremely flammable and when they burn, will generate a huge amount of heat which can quickly spread within a home. To illustrate this situation, the Toronto fire department performed a demonstration which showed a dried-out tree burning up and engulfing a room in fire in only 2 minutes.
One of the 2017 Christmas fires occurred in a condo near Avenue Road and St. Clair West, and it was suspected that frayed electrical wires around the tree was the source of the fire. The second fire occurred in Mississauga and although no one was injured, the house sustained a significant amount of damage.
Important Christmas Tree Safety Tips
To reduce the risk of fire, Christmas trees should be watered every day to prevent them from drying out. And, if you have pets, who will sometimes drink water from the tree stand, you may need to check your tree more often to ensure there is always water in the reservoir.
It's a good idea to place your tree away from radiators, baseboard heaters and air vents which will dry them out. A tree set in a south-facing window will also dry out more quickly. Basically, try to avoid any circumstance that will constantly dry out your tree, and replenish your tree’s water more often if the situation calls for it.
Don’t leave your Christmas tree lights or any other Christmas lights on while unattended. Although it may be tempting to leave lights on to maintain that ‘Christmas spirit’, especially for Christmas trees situated in the front window of our home, lights should be turned off when you go to bed or leave your home.
Make sure that your Christmas tree and any other flammable materials within your home are kept a safe distance from a space heater, fireplace or candles. Further, a space heater and candles should never be left on when we leave the house or go to bed, or even when we leave the room for any length of time.
Don’t run electrical cords for your Christmas tree lights under your rugs, carpets or furniture. Also, make sure you don’t overload your electrical outlets. Further, get rid of any Christmas lights and electrical cords that appear worn, frayed or damaged.
Ontario fire departments urge that we dispose of our Christmas tree as soon as it has dried out or within 4 weeks of purchase. And, until garbage pick-up day, it’s prudent to store the dried-out tree outside and away from your home.
Finally, it’s a good idea to check that your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working, particularly before the Christmas season.