A demonstration of how quickly a Christmas tree can burn when not properly cared for. Photo Courtesy: U.S. Fire Administration and NIST
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. This Christmas song resonates with a warm fuzzy feeling. But for some people, the words “Christmas” and “fire” evoke potential tragedy.
Each year, fire departments respond around the county to an average of 210 structure fires caused by Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In New York, Brooklyn ranked the highest among the boroughs – with a total of 83 serious fire incidents in December, a time when people are partying, cooking, staying warm, and decorating.
How to make Christmas safer? The Fire Department City of New York conducts 6,000 fire-safety education presentations annually. “We promote our YouTube and FDNY website on all FDNY social media,” said Jim Long FDNY Public Information Director. “The flyers are handed out the New Yorkers at those events.”
Still, In order for these fire incidents to be prevented, the information has to be pushed out and readily accessible. The FDNY’s YouTube page, Your FDNY, shows a Christmas Tree fire demonstration posted 3 years ago, with only 5,100 views. The latest holiday fire prevention post was 11 months ago featuring the Safety Snowpeople, still with just 1,800 views. The 2014 FDNY Calendar of heroes has 9,300 views posted just four months ago. (Of the approximately 8 million people in New York City, 5.5 million use Facebook, 2.6 million use Twitter, and nearly 900,000 use Tumblr, according to the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation.)
Luckily, besides the FDNY, other organizations supply holiday safety tips, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, New York State Department of Homeland Security, National Fire Protection Association, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Taking preventive measures is key in saving lives. “Sadly, during the winter months, we see a spike in the number of fires, displaced residents and even fatalities,” said Michael de Vulpillieres, the Red Cross communications director. The Red Cross encourages people to pack a grab-and-go-bag that includes, cash, documents, a wallet, a copy of your lease, and any irreplaceable items. “The loss of your pet can be extremely traumatic,” said de Vulpillieres. “The loss of your home, which is your safe haven, photographs, wedding albums – seeing that go up in flames can take a toll on someone.”
From Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, there were more than 3,000 Brooklyn residents helped by the Red Cross following 623 incidents, mostly home fires. This Saturday, the Red Cross will host a holiday event for more than 100 families who recently lost their homes. Every family will receive a gift bag. The event takes place at the Hard Rock Café in Manhattan from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
A comprehensive look at New York City:
Website Fire Safety Evaluation:
Fire Department City of New York
No holiday safety link on the homepage. You can search for YourFDNY YouTube page for a video three years old or search for and read a PDF safety flyer from 2010, that also needs to be searched for.
New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
Homepage has an image to click on with facts about holiday safety. Once you click on the link, it takes you to information on your tree, decorations, and what to do with guests that stay in your home during the holidays.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
On the homepage, there is a large link to winter and holiday safety. You can click on it and it takes you to a comprehensive page, that includes videos, flyers, an infographic, and an animated short about fire safety.
National Fire Protection Association
On the homepage, you can click on the third scrolling image that shows a Christmas tree on fire. The page provides some facts and figures on Christmas tree fires, plus a YouTube video of what happens with a dry tree versus a well-wetted tree. Trust me, you want to well water your tree.
Some quick tips from the National Fire Protection Association:
Choosing a Tree
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1″ – 2″ from the base of the trunk.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
- Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
Decorating the Tree
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.