Prevent Christmas Tree Fires With These Safety Tips

Growing Red Christmas Ornament

The holiday season is a joyous time, but it can be quickly spoiled by a fire in your home. While fires can happen at any time of the year, there are significantly more home fires around this time as a result of improper care of Christmas trees. Although it’s difficult to imagine that something so beautiful can be so hazardous, a harvested Christmas tree is a uniquely dangerous item to have in the home. In typical indoor conditions, evergreens and other needle-bearing trees can become as dry as tinder, bursting into flame with little provocation. A video posted by Toronto Fire Services demonstrates just how little time it takes for a dry tree to become a raging fireball.

If you are planning to bring a traditional cut tree into your home for the holidays, be sure to follow these simple tips to manage the risk of a fire:

  • When choosing using a real tree, remember that it will only stay fresh for about four weeks, so keep this in mind when you buy. Look for fresh green needles that are hard to pluck and do not break away from the branches. The tree should not easily be shedding its needles.
  • Be sure to make a fresh cut off of the bottom of the tree when you get home and always place it in water. Use a proper tree stand so that water can easily enter the base of the tree. You might be surprised at how much water the tree will draw, so be sure to check and replenish the water level daily to ensure that the tree keeps fresh.
  • Always place the tree away from any sources of flame such as fire places or candles. Any source of heat is drying, so avoid positioning the tree close to forced air floor vents, radiators or space heaters as well. Under no circumstances should candles be used on a tree.
  • Make sure you are using appropriate indoor and outdoor lights. The lights should have been tested and have the appropriate CSA designation. Do not use damaged lights — throw them away. Make sure to plug lights into a circuit that is grounded. (The same rules apply to artificial trees as well.)
  • When you go to bed each night, do not forgot to turn off the lights on your tree. This will save energy and it will also avoid the occurrence of an electrical fire while you and your family are asleep.
  • Even a well-watered tree should be taken down and discarded after four weeks. If you notice that your tree is dropping needles, check that there is water in the tree stand reservoir and that the water is able to enter the tree. If it continues to drop needles, it is time to get rid of it.
  • Be sure that your tree is discarded promptly. Many municipalities have scheduled Christmas tree pick up dates, so co-ordinate accordingly. Do not allow your discarded tree to languish on your property, and do not store it close to your garage or other flammable structures, as discarded trees can be an attractive target for arsonists.

While we’re on the topic of fire safety generally, you should purchase and keep fire extinguishers available throughout your house. Place a fire extinguisher near the tree, and keep it handy in the kitchen after the holiday season is over. As well, if you forgot to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when you re-set your clocks this past autumn, do it now. Even if the batteries still work, they should be changed on a yearly basis regardless. If, despite taking appropriate precautions a fire still breaks out in your home, your smoke detector alarm can give you enough time to get your loved ones to safety.

From everyone at Howie, Sacks & Henry, have a happy and safe holiday season! Michael Henry is one of the founding partners of Howie, Sacks & Henry. He can be reached at 416-361-0998 or

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