HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Firefighters burned a Christmas tree Monday in an effort to show just how quickly one could catch fire and burn down your home. In a matter of seconds, the tree was engulfed in flames; burning the presents underneath it and sending thick, black, toxic smoke throughout the "living room" of the staged demonstration.
"A Christmas time fire is not something that we want to see," Henrico Fire spokesman Capt. Daniel Rosenbaum said. "Unfortunately with all the decorations and with winter time; the use of space heaters and fireplaces; we do see more fires about this time of year."
The fire department offered nine tips everyone with a Christmas tree should know to lessen the fire danger:
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched
- Cut 2" from the base of the trunk before placing tree in the stand
- Set-up tree at least three feet away from any heat source
- Make sure the tree does not block an exit
- Add water to the tree stand daily
- Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory
- Replace any string of lights with worn of broken cords or loose bulbs
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed
Here are some additional facts provided by the Henrico Fire Department and AAA Mid-Atlantic:
- Between 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage annually.
- On average, one of every 40 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires.
- Electrical problems were factors in one-third (32%0 of home Christmas tree structure fires.
- Two of every five (39 percent) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room or den.
AAA Mid-Atlantic offered the following tips to properly secure a Christmas tree to your vehicle:
- Be prepared to be fully responsible for tying the tree to your vehicle. Some vendors fear insurance claims if your car is damaged or if the tree comes off and causes an accident and therefore ask you to be fully responsible for securing it.•
- Take a blanket, strong rope/bungee cords/ratchet straps or similar and at least one other person with you.
- Slide a blanket or tarp on top of your vehicle to protect from scratches.
- If possible, have the tree netted as this provides a more manageable bundle and helps to prevent the wind for catching individual branches
- Place the tree with its trunk toward the vehicle’s hood.
- Using strong rope, bungee cords, ratchet straps or similar to tightly securely the tree, remembering, that if in doubt, overdo it. Trees really can come off of the car, even at lower speeds if not well attached.
- Keep your vision clear. Don’t block your mirrors or sight of view with the tree.
- If putting your tree in the vehicle’s trunk, it is equally important to secure it completely by tying both the tree and the trunk down with rope and making sure that your view is not obstructed.
- If the tree is protruding past the back of your vehicle or if it’s sticking out of your trunk, tie a bright, reflective flag to the end of the tree where it is protruding.