Christmas tree fires: Cleveland Fire Department reports electrical problems leading cause

Heaters and candles also spark many tree fires

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Fire Department is urging all residents to carefully examine all parts of their Christmas tree this holiday season, especially the electrical components.

Cleveland firefighters staged a controlled Christmas tree burn at their fire academy to graphically demonstrate how quickly a fresh cut tree can go up in flames.

The burn was led by Cleveland firefighter Roy Ziganti. He showed how a fresh cut Fraser Fir can become fully engulfed in flames in less than 10 seconds, without the use of additional accelerant.

No. 1: Inspect all wiring on your Christmas lights carefully

The Cleveland Fire Department reports 31 percent of all Christmas tree fires are caused by an electrical problem.

"We want to make sure all the wiring is in good condition, that you have the proper lights, that you have lights that aren't too hot," explained Ziganti. "The old incandescent bulb is just too hot for these trees, you have LED lights now, they're very inexpensive. I would recommend everyone just use the LED lights."

No. 2: Make sure your real Christmas tree doesn't run out of water

A real Christmas tree can quickly dry out if a good water level isn't maintained at its base.

"In the event that you have a cut tree, you want to make sure that it always has water in its container," said Ziganti. "You also want to keep your tree away from space heaters or any form of artificial heat. Not only can these heaters spark a fire, but they can also play a big role in drying out your tree."

Heat sources cause 18 percent of all Christmas tree fires.

No. 3: Avoid using lit candles in holiday decorating

This is just common sense, but the Cleveland Fire Department reports 9 percent of all Christmas tree fires are caused by candles.

There are now a wide variety of LED candles available that simulate a flame. Never leave a burning candle unattended.

No. 4: Talk to your children about potential hazards associated with Christmas tree

"All you can do is talk to your children about this,' explained Ziganti. "You can watch your children constantly, it's almost impossible, I know I've had three kids of my own. So you just have to talk to them, and make sure that they understand the dangers of this."

The National Fire Protection Association reports Christmas tree fires in the U.S. cause an average of 9 deaths, and $9 million in property damage every year.

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