Holiday Fire Risks: Christmas Vacation Lessons Learned

A great scene in Christmas Vacation, has Uncle Lewis through a combination of his age and inattention, burns the Griswald Family tree to the ground. While on film this scene is entertaining, in real life, things are not quite as amusing. Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 200 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually.[1] The National Fire Profession Association gives us a few guidelines for decorating your tree this year.

  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.

  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer's instructions for number of light strands to connect.

  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Although Christmas tree fires are uncommon, they do occur, and they are likely to be very serious. Keeping an eye on your decorations and being smart about where to put things can make your holidays safer.

While Clark Griswald’s Christmas tree fire happened before Christmas, the danger of a fire does not end for many people until into the New Year. My family always left our tree up through New Year’s day and by then, the tree was on its last leg, usually dried out and ready for the trash. Do not let your guard down, and keep an eye out for your own personal Uncle Lewis this New Years Eve.

[1] http://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Seasonal-fires/Winter-holiday-safety/Christmas-tree-fires

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