LATHROP – It’s the focal point of the family’s Christmas experience.
But it’s also one of the holidays’ biggest fire hazards.
The Christmas tree – complete with its long, delicate branches and the space in between to hang ornaments, tinsel and garland – is commonly underestimated by homeowners that don’t realize how quickly it can go up and how hot it can burn in a matter of seconds.
Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Chief Gene Neely says that he’s seen several fires where the tree burned so hot that it melted the furniture in the room. It is something that could very easily, he said, get out of control if there was a source for the fire to continue burning.
“It’s amazing how fast a Christmas tree fire can spread because of the heat that it gives off,” said Neely. “It’s something that not a lot of people think of until it happens to them. With all of that heat it can really turn quickly, and I think a lot of people should be aware of that.”
That’s not to say that keeping a live tree in the house shouldn’t be something that families do as a holiday tradition.
There are just a few things that people should remember, Neely said, to ensure that their family and their home remains protected through the holidays.
The most important thing, he said, is not to buy it too early and to make sure that there a fresh cut made at the bottom before its put into a stand – preferably one that holds water. It’s important to check it daily and make sure that the needles are responsive and not brittle or flaky, and to keep it away from any heat source – including the vents in the ceiling. Ensuring that the lighting used is in good working order, and not frayed or broken, will also help protect against the unthinkable.
“People should use the miniature plastic lights because they give off less heat, and they should turn them off when they go to bed – leaving it on all night only helps dry it out faster,” he said. “And just because it’s an artificial tree doesn’t mean that it can’t catch fire. We recommend that people check and see that it’s fire retardant – those are the best to put in the home.
“The last thing is to get the tree out of the house after the holidays. We realize some people are traditional and they want to keep it until after the first of the year, but the longer they wait, the more dry the tree becomes. Also, we don’t recommend people burning them in their fireplaces – it’s not a safe thing to do.”
People with questions, he said are encouraged to contact the fire prevention officer at (209) 858-2331.