A dry Christmas tree can become fully engulfed in flames seconds after first being ignited, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission showed in video aiming to warn people of some possibly unknown dangers the holidays can bring.
In the video, released on the agency’s YouTube page on Tuesday, one staged setup shows a timer in front of a decorated tree.
As the tree is set on fire, the timer shows that within 10 seconds the flames engulf most of the tree and begin shooting from the top.
Before the 20-second mark, the room’s ceiling is blanketed with active flames. Pieces of the burning tree begin to fall shortly thereafter, causing presents, a nearby chair, and other items to catch fire.
In another portion of the more than 2-minute video, a candle inside a menorah that was placed next to a draped window falls sideways and ignites the curtain.
These common holiday fixtures can be harmful and at times deadly, according to the video.
Christmas trees were the first items ignited in about 200 fires annually between 2010 and 2012, resulting in 10 deaths, 20 injuries, and about $17 million in property loss, according to the Safety Commission.
Candles were the source of about 6,500 residential fires annually during the same time period. Those instances caused 80 deaths, 650 injuries, and about $237 million in property loss.
Although the cause of each incident is not known, the commission offered a slew of safety tips in hopes of preventing such incidents in the future.
Artificial trees are often fire resistant, and should state so on the box, according to a Holiday Decoration Safety Tips document on the agency’s website.
If fresh trees are preferred, green ones are more resistant to fire than dry ones.
To make sure a tree is fresh, the Safety Commission says to look for the following:
- Fresh trees are green
- Needles should be difficult to pull away from the branches
- Fresh needles do not break when bent between your fingers
- The “trunk butt” of a tree should be sticky with resin
- When a tree is bounced on the ground, needles should not “shower” off
Tree maintenance can help prevent it from drying out, and includes cutting away 2 inches off the trunk to expose the fresh wood, which absorbs water better; trimming branches away from the trunk that may prevent it from being placed in a “sturdy, water-holding stand;” and keeping the stand filled with water at all times while it is indoors.
Heat sources should also be considered, according to the commission. Trees should not be places near fireplaces, radiators or other heat sources; and heated rooms can cause trees to dry out.
For candle safety, the commission says to keep them away from decorations and wrapping paper, to never use lighted candles on or near trees, to always use non-flammable holders, and not to place them where they can be knocked down.
Other fire safety tips included:
- Turning off lights on trees and other decorations when you are asleep or not home
- Removing all wrapping paper from fireplace areas and candles immediately after presents are opened
- Wrapping paper should not be burned in a fireplace, as it can “ignite suddenly and burn intensely”
- And the holiday season can be a good time to go over emergency safety plans -- or create them -- with each family member in your home