In a video put out as a public service announcement by Erie Insurance,
a vacant home is completely engulfed in flames and smoke in just five
minutes, showcasing the all-too-common dangers Christmas trees can pose —
not only to the structure of the home itself but to the families who
To bring awareness to these dangers, Erie Insurance and the Erie Fire
Department staged the fire in a vacant home to set a realistic scenario
on what can happen if you don’t take the proper safety precautions as a
“A Christmas tree fire can fill a room with toxic smoke in just 30
seconds and burn down an entire living room in 60,” said Chief of the
Erie Fire Department Guy Santone. “It’s critical that homeowners
understand the risks, and it’s up to us to train the public about fire
safety, especially around this time of year.”
Recent national reporting done by the National Fire Protection Association
shows Christmas trees resulted in an annual average of seven civilian
fire deaths, 19 civilian fire injuries and $17.5 million in direct
property damage during a four-year span.
“This attention-grabbing video is important in our effort to educate
homeowners about these risks and the dangers Christmas trees can pose if
not properly cared for,” said Gary Sullivan, vice president of property
and subrogation claims, Erie Insurance. “We want families to gather
around, share special moments and enjoy a delicious meal with one
another — we don’t want them to be displaced from their homes due to a
fire, or worse, caught in a life-threatening situation.”
Here are six safety tips for a merrier, not scarier, holiday season:
- Quench Your Tree’s Thirst: It’s crucial to water your Christmas tree every day because a dry one can catch fire and burn faster than a newspaper.
- Kick the Tree to the Curb Sooner: Nearly 40 percent
of home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January — long
after gifts have been unwrapped. As sad as it is to face the end of the
holiday season, make sure to remove your tree in a timely manner.
- Shed a Light on Electrical Problems: One out of every three
Christmas tree fires in a home is caused by electrical problems, so
don’t connect more than the maximum number of light strands recommended
by the manufacturer. Also, make sure to inspect the lights for damage,
tossing out any that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked
wires. Check that smoke detectors are properly working, too, so you can
be alerted in the event of an emergency situation.
- Keep a Safe Distance: While a Christmas tree nestled near
a cozy fireplace and decorated mantle sounds like a perfect setting for
the holiday, be careful to keep your tree at least three feet away from heat sources.
- Properly Handle Candles: If you celebrate Chanukah, know that December is the peak time
of year for home candle fires. Consider replacing real candles with
battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like
the real thing without the risk.
- Don’t Slip into Dangerous Walking and Driving Practices: Christmas
tree hazards aren’t the only holiday dangers. During winter months,
it’s icy. Ice creates slippery surfaces, posing a danger for drivers and
pedestrians. Walk at a slower pace with shorter steps and make sure to
wear insulated, waterproof boots for added precaution.