Fire hazard No. 1: Christmas trees


Every year, during the holiday season, the newspapers report on fires initiated by Christmas trees. Why?

The "standard design" of a Christmas tree, a 2.2 m high Scotch pine, has around 400 000 needles. The needles with their high resin content, not the twigs and the trunk, are the real hazard in the fire load of the tree.    

The Christmas trees are cut end of November. For two or three weeks, the trees are not watered and the needles become extremely dry and increasingly flammable. When a candle fire touches the needles, the resin begins to liquefy and to evaporate. The resin burns immediately and initiates a chain reaction: flames jump from needle to needle, the decoration flares, the Christmas tree balls fall off. Within a few seconds, the tree is completely ablaze and ignites gifts, paper, boards, curtains and the whole furniture in the room. Within a few minutes, "flashover" may occur - that's when an entire room erupts into flames. 

American statistics for the years 2000 to 2004 reveal that Christmas trees were the items first ignited in an estimated average of 300 reported U.S. home structure fires per year. These fires caused an average of 14 civilian deaths, 21 civilian injuries, and $16.8 million in direct property damage per year.

How can we protect ourselves against such fires? Here are some tips from fire brigades and insurers:


  • - Place a bucket of water next to the tree
  • - Make sure that the tree is well fixed, preferably in a water bucket
  • - Place candles at distances of at least 30 cm from all combustible items
  • - Only use non-combustible candle holders
  • - Extinguish the candles before leaving the room
  • - Do no more light the candles after New Year's Eve; the tree will be completely dry and burn like hell