Tips to prevent Christmas tree fires

Dec 23, 2022, 12:36 PM | Updated: 4:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — With the holiday weekend, the last thing anyone wants for Christmas is for a tree, home, or anything else to go up in flames.

The Red Cross of Utah and the Salt Lake City Fire Department teamed up on Friday to demonstrate just how fast a Christmas tree can catch fire and spread. Ten seconds is all it takes for a live tree that’s dried to go up in flames.

In the demonstration’s case, like many families, the tree was purchased about three weeks ago.

The furniture next to it, both couches, also caught fire within a minute or so. In this demonstration, one side was exposed which allowed heat to escape.

Salt Lake City Fire Capt. Shaun Mumedy said if this fire were to break out inside a home, it would be much worse.

“The fire. A lot of that heat was escaping. In a house, it doesn’t. It gets contained and ends up catching the rest of the room on fire,” Mumedy said.

It takes literally seconds for a fire starting from a dry Christmas tree to spread, but it takes minutes to put out all the flames, even among firefighters.

“Lot of those plastics start to burn down and turn into the couch materials and really essentially end up being a bunch of melting plastics. So that presents a certain hazard to firefighters as well in our ability to put it out and extinguish it as well as the chemicals we encounter,” Mumedy said.

Salt Lake City firefighters said every year across the U.S., there are about 200 of these kinds of fires a year.

A handful of those happen here in Salt Lake.

Mumedy said your best bet if Christmas tree flames start flying is to stay low to the ground and get out of the house.

“This is just a typical fire extinguisher you can buy at Home Depot. Lowe’s. Any hardware store. This is what most people have in their home… This is not going to be very effective. We have way too much fire in such a short amount of time,” said Mumedy.

Prevention is key.

Tips to keep a fire from happening in the first place:

  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet from any heat source, such as a space heater, heat vent, or fireplace.
  • Always turn off tree lights before leaving home or tucking in for the night.

The Red Cross has a fire campaign where they will install three free smoke alarms for people.

Going into January, Salt Lake City Fire and the Red Cross said they tend to see more of these incidents happen as Christmas trees dry out.

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Tips to prevent Christmas tree fires