Christmas Tree Safety from the U.S. Fire Administration, NFPA, and the City of Blythe

The City of Blythe Development Services Department wishes you a happy and safe holiday season. For additional information, we are located at 235 N. Broadway, or contact us at (760) 922-6130. (Archived file photo by Uriel Avendano/Palo Verde Valley Times)

Many families, traditionally, decorate their homes for the holidays the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Please remember, as we enter the Christmas season, to be conscious of your Christmas tree and your holiday decorations, as they determine the safety of you and your family.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology demonstrated what happens when fire touches a dry tree. Within three seconds of ignition, the dry Scotch pine is completely ablaze.

At five seconds, the fire extends up the tree and black smoke with searing gases streaks across the ceiling. Fresh air near the floor feeds the fire. The sofa, coffee table and the carpet ignite prior to any flame contact.

Within 40 seconds “flashover” occurs - that’s when an entire room erupts into flames, oxygen is depleted and dense, deadly toxic smoke engulfs the scene.

Wet trees tell a different story. For comparative purposes, the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) fire safety engineers selected a green Scotch pine, had it cut in their presence, had an additional two inches cut from the trunk’s bottom, and placed the tree in a stand with at least a 7.6 liter water capacity.

The researchers maintained the Scotch pine’s water on a daily basis. A single match could not ignite the tree.

A second attempt in which an electric current ignited an entire matchbook failed to fire the tree.

Finally they applied an open flame to the tree using a propane torch. The branches ignited briefly, but self-extinguished when the researchers removed the torch from the branches.

As NIST fire safety engineers say: REMEMBER – A WET TREE IS A SAFE TREE!

• When decorating your tree, always use lights listed by a testing laboratory. Some lights are designed only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Larger tree lights should also have some type of reflector rather than a bare bulb.

• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use tree lights. Any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used. Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

• Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

• Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life.

• Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and make sure any lit candles in the room are placed well away from tree branches.

• Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles. Check for fresh, green needles. And place your tree in a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.

• Children are fascinated with Christmas trees. Keep a watchful eye on them when around the tree and do not let them play with the wiring or lights. Store matches and lighters up high, out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.

• Make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.

• Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.

• If you use an artificial tree, make sure it is fire-retardant.

The Development Services Department wishes you a happy and safe holiday season. For additional information, we are located at 235 N. Broadway, or contact us at (760) 922-6130.

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