It’s that time of year when people are starting to put up Christmas trees. Did you know that live Christmas trees can be a fire hazard if not properly cared for. Las Vegas Fire & Rescue has tips for getting a tree, caring for it and keeping it hydrated. If a tree should catch fire, leave the building immediately. It can consume an entire room in less than one minute.
Getting A Tree
- When selecting a tree, its appearance should be dark green and there should be some fragrance to it; this indicates there is still some moisture in the tree.
- The trees in the lot should be sitting in a bucket or bowl that is full of water, which indicates the tree was maintained.
- Perform a freshness test. Gently pull on a branch with a closed hand to see if needles will fall off into your hand. If needles fall off in excess, this means the tree is dead or dying and is not a good choice.
- When transporting the tree, try to cover it with a light plastic sheet, this way the wind will not pull out moisture from the tree. Exposed to wind, the tree acts like a radiator and will lose its moisture.
- Once the tree arrives at its destination, cut approximately one-half inch off the bottom of the treetrunk and then immediately put the tree in a bucket of water. This will allow water to re-enter the tree.
- Prepare a place inside the building to set up the tree. The location should be away from heating or electric devices, so the tree will not dry out more quickly.
In Your Home
- Water the tree twice a day every day. Never let it run dry. (It works well to water the tree before going to bed, and again just before leaving for work.)
- Perform a freshness test every day. Gently pull on a branch with a closed hand to see if needles will fall off. If needles fall off in excess, this means the tree is dead and is a hazard. It should be removed.
- Inspect all electric lighting for frayed or broken wiring before putting lights on the tree.
- Shut off electric lighting on the tree when you go to bed or leave the home.
- Keep the tree away from heat sources, which would accelerate drying out the tree.
- Keep smoking materials and candles away from trees.
The Importance of Hydration
Incidents involving live Christmas trees inside buildings increase during the week just before the holiday until the end of the holiday period. The major reason is the tree was not kept hydrated enough. People who have real trees inside buildings will need to take extra precautions during the holiday season.
Because of the dryness of the desert air and the unusually warm weather this year, it is extremely important that the trees be watered every day. It is not uncommon for the tree to need no less than two gallons of plain water every day. It should be watered once in the morning and again in the evening.
The water reservoir should never be permitted to run dry. If the water runs out, the tree will form a sap seal on the bottom of the trunk within 10 minutes to hold what water it has left inside. Once the sap seal is formed, no water will be able to get into the tree. The sap seal would have to be cut off the bottom of the tree trunk to let water get back into the tree. This is why it is so important to ensure the bottom of the trunk is always in water, so the sap seal can never form.
Extensive tests have shown that trees thrive best on plain water with no additives.
In a demonstration performed by Las Vegas Fire & Rescue, two trees that were in Las Vegas homes after a holiday period were used to prove the importance of keeping trees watered. One tree was in a home for only two weeks and not well maintained. It burned in less than one minute. The other tree was inside a home from Nov. 15 until Jan. 5 and kept watered. Even with direct flame on the tree, the tree would not ignite.
One of the most common ignition sources of tree fires is electric lighting. If the tree is not properly watered, even small lights can provide enough heat to cause a fire. Another is static electricity. Just touching the tree with a static charge is all that was needed to start the tree on fire.