Christmas Tree Safety: Live vs. Artificial Trees

Christmas Tree Safety: Live vs. Artificial Trees
Image: Pixabay

When choosing a Christmas tree, the biggest decision consumers make is whether to purchase a live tree or to use an artificial one. While artificial trees pose fewer safety concerns than live trees, each type comes with its own set of safety concerns.

The following tips should help you not only determine which Christmas tree is best for your family, but also help you ensure your home's safety during the holiday season.

Christmas Tree Fires

Christmas tree lights have a reputation of sparking electrical fires on Christmas trees. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a short in one light on the string can easily ignite the tree. However, fires are less likely to break out on well-watered Christmas trees than dry ones.

The administration encourages Christmas tree owners to keep their trees well-watered to reduce the chance of an electrical light fire.

Live Trees –If you decide to have a real tree adorning your living room during the Christmas season, here are some important things to remember about choosing and caring for a fresh-cut Christmas tree:

Start by purchasing a tree that is still alive. Keeping the tree alive starts with choosing one that hasn't turned into firewood before it got off the lot. Your best bet is to buy a tree that is still growing and cut it yourself (or have someone cut it for you). If you are buying a pre-cut tree, make sure it is still alive and healthy. Pull on the needles, if they come off easily, it is probably not in great condition. The trunk should be sticky and the limbs should be very flexible. Lift the tree and bounce the cut end on the ground, if a significant number of needles fall off, it isn't a safe tree to take home.

Fresh cut means fresh cut. When you get the Christmas tree home, cut off the bottom two inches of trunk. This will create a fresh, raw cut for the tree to soak in water. If you don't do this, the trunk may not be able to drink in the water in the Christmas tree stand.

Water, water, and more water. Watering is essential. Keeping your thirsty Christmas tree well hydrated is the best way to fireproof it. Keep the water in the stand well above the fresh-cut bottom of the trunk. There is no need to put more than water in the tree stand – your tree isn't picky about flavor or caffeine or sugar. Plain water is the best for Christmas trees.

Artificial Trees – Even though real trees seem to pose the most threats in the home, artificial trees are equally as vulnerable to Christmas tree light risks. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, fake trees are likely to catch fire when decorators overload electrical sockets with Christmas tree lights.

The Association warns that even flame retardant or flame resistant artificial trees can eventually succumb to a fire as their resistance wears off when completely consumed in flames. By following the instructions on Christmas tree light packaging, owners can determine how many light strings they can safely connect before posing a threat to their homes.

Pre-Lit Trees – In previous years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled a number of pre-lit trees. According to the Commission, some buyers experienced electrical shocks and fires resulting from exposed wiring, wires that were too short and electrical cords that were not plugged in all the way.

While not purchasing pre-lit trees is the only way to prevent such issues, individuals can take some precautions by placing the tree in a well-ventilated area where it is not likely to quickly spread fire to furniture, pillows or gifts within close proximity.

Disposal of Live Christmas Trees – While how long you keep your tree up is entirely up to you, the longer it sits after the holidays, the drier it gets and the bigger fire hazard it becomes.

Don't dispose of your tree by burning it. A burning Christmas tree is hard to control and may burn much faster than you are expecting it to.

Burning Christmas tree clippings in a fireplace may result in a chimney fire. Pine and fir trees also produce a lot of creosote when burning and may lead to deposits on the chimney.

If you don't live in an area where you can dispose of your tree naturally, most cities and towns will collect Christmas trees curbside on designated days. Check with your local municipality for Christmas tree disposal instructions specific to where you live.

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