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Erie Insurance Sets Christmas Tree and Vacant Home Ablaze to Demonstrate Dangerous Holiday Fire Hazards

In a video put out as a public service announcement byErie InsuranceErie Insurance,a vacant home is completely engulfed in flames and smoke in just fiveminutes, showcasing the all-too-common dangers Christmas trees can pose —not only to the structure of the home itself but to the families wholive there.

To bring awareness to these dangers, Erie Insurance and the Erie FireDepartment staged the fire in a vacant home to set a realistic scenarioon what can happen if you don’t take the proper safety precautions as ahomeowner.

“A Christmas tree fire can fill a room with toxic smoke in just 30seconds and burn down an entire living room in 60," said Chief of theErie Fire Department Guy Santone. “It’s critical that homeownersunderstand the risks, and it’s up to us to train the public about firesafety, especially around this time of year."

Recent national reporting done by the National Fire Protection Associationshows Christmas trees resulted in an annual average of seven civilianfire deaths, 19 civilian fire injuries and $17.5 million in directproperty damage during a four-year span.

“This attention-grabbing video is important in our effort to educatehomeowners about these risks and the dangers Christmas trees can pose ifnot properly cared for," said Gary Sullivan, vice president of propertyand subrogation claims, Erie Insurance. “We want families to gatheraround, share special moments and enjoy a delicious meal with oneanother — we don’t want them to be displaced from their homes due to afire, or worse, caught in a life-threatening situation."

Here are six safety tips for a merrier, not scarier, holiday season:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.