The Los Angeles County Fire Department, along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the Grossman Burn Center, urged millions of residents during an annual news conference Dec. 11 to have a safe holiday season.
“During this time of the year, we receive a lot of calls (involving Christmas trees on fire) that we feel are preventable. Christmas trees are beautiful, but we want them to be safe,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. “It’s our objective to have zero fatalities in this region.”
Dr. Matt Young from the Grossman Burn Center echoed the importance of Christmas tree safety.
“Every year at Grossman, we see children and adults with burns around this time of the year. The most tragic come from fires from Christmas trees and all of these are preventable,” Gross added. “It’s not just devastating at the time (it happens) but for the rest of your life.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 210 house fires and over a half-dozen fatalities are caused by the family Christmas tree each year in the United States. While not common, these fires are serious, with one of every 31 reported tree fires resulting in a fatality, compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported house fires.
Electrical failures, decorative lights and candles also rank high as leading causes of house fires during the holiday season.
To bring home the dangers of Christmas tree fires, a live fire demonstration was held to illustrate just how quickly and intensely a Christmas tree can burn.
Here are some tips for a safe holiday:
- Always maintain your holiday lights. Each year before hanging your lights, check for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear.
- Do not link more than three light strands unless the directions state that it is safe to do so.
- Use only nonflammable decorations or flame-retardant ones, and keep them away from any heat source.
- Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace; it could cause a very large fire, throwing off dangerous embers and sparks that could result in a chimney fire.
- Don’t block exits with decorations or Christmas trees.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- If you do use lit candles to decorate, never put them on a tree.
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from all flammable materials, decorations and wrapping paper.
- Make sure to keep lit candles away from children and in an area where they cannot be blown or knocked over.
- When setting up a Christmas tree, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. A heated room can quickly dry out a tree.
- Use thin guide-wires to secure a large tree to walls or the ceiling.
- Turn off all Christmas lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season!
Video at top: During its Dec. 11, 2015, news conference on holiday safety, public safety officials lit a Christmas tree on fire to show just how intensely a dry tree can burn. Video by Phil Wilford.