PARKERSBURG - Officials advise residents to be fire smart while decking the halls this holiday season.
The flammability of a dry Christmas tree and a tree that has been watered regularly can be the difference between life and death. According to research conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between 2005 and 2009 fire departments across the country responded to an average of 240 home fires that started as Christmas tree fires. Of the 240 fires, an average of 13 deaths and 27 injuries occurred.
The NFPA urge the importance of electrical problems, saying one of every home Christmas tree fires is caused by an electrical issue. Christmas lights will have a tag on them to let the purchaser know they are safe, said Parkersburg Fire Department chief inspector Capt. Tim Flinn.
"Check the wiring every year," advised Flinn. "If you know which circuit you feed your lights on, you can flip the tripped breaker."
When picking a live tree, choose one with fresh, green needles that don't fall off when touched, officials advised.
Officials remind residence of the importance of replacing lights and reading the manufacturer's instructions for number of LED strands to connect together safely.
Although Christmas tree fires are not common, officials said when they do occur they tend to be more serious. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in 73 percent of the fires involving holiday or decorative lights. On average, one of every 18 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death compared to an average of one death per 141 total reported home structure fires throughout the year.
Always turn off Christmas lights before going to bed or leaving home, officials added. A heat source too close to a tree causes roughly one in every six Christmas tree fires, according to statistics.
Be sure to add water to the trunk of a live tree daily and make sure it is not blocking an exit in case of an emergency.
People who anticipate adding lights to their residence and have not done so should do so when weather conditions are safe.
"Don't get on the roof in icy conditions," Flinn added.
The NFPA advise never decorating a live tree with candles. The top three days for home candle fires last year were Christmas eve, Christmas day and New Year's day.