The gifts have been opened, the ornaments are starting to sag, and the fallen pine needles are multiplying daily – these are clear signs that it’s time to remove the Christmas tree and other holiday decorations from your home.
“Christmas trees are flammable objects. The longer they’re in your home, the more they dry out, making them a significant fire hazard,” said Lorraine Carli, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.
NFPA statistics show that nearly 40 percent of home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January. Although these fires aren’t common, when they do occur, they’re more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, as compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.
While many people choose to keep their Christmas trees and holiday decorations up for a few weeks after the holidays, the continued use of seasonal lighting and dried-out trees after the holidays presents increased fire risks.
“Our hope is that once people understand the fire hazards associated with Christmas trees, particularly as they continue to dry out over time, they’ll choose to remove them promptly,” said Carli.
When people do dispose of their trees, NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program, if available. They should not be put in the garage or left outside.
In addition, NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for safely removing electrical lights and decorations from Christmas trees, and ensuring that they’re in good condition for the following year:
- When unplugging electrical decorations, use the gripping area on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from an electrical outlet. (Doing so can harm the cord’s wire and insulation, which can lead to an electrical fire or shock.)
- As you put away electrical light strings, take time to inspect each for damage. Throw out light sets if they have loose connections, broken sockets, or cracked or bare wires.
- Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap the lights around a piece of cardboard.
- Store electrical decorations away from children and pets, and put them in a dry place where they won’t be damaged by water or dampness.