Fire Research Video Shows How Quickly An Unwatered Christmas Tree Can Spread Flames

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With the holiday season in full swing, fire researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology would like to remind Christmas tree owners of the importance of keeping their trees watered.

The organization released a video in 2017, which resurfaced again this year, demonstrating the speed at which a watered tree versus a dry tree can spread a house fire. The results were enough to scare anyone into keeping their Christmas tree moist throughout the season.

The public service announcement video, titled “Why You Should Water Your Christmas Tree,” gave a side-by-side view of two trees being set ablaze. The tree on the left was a bright green watered tree, while the one on the right was a browning, unwatered and, therefore, dry tree. Timers were placed in front of each tree and began counting at the same time while the trees were lit, Oregon Live reported.

The dry tree was extremely flammable, with flames engulfing the entire tree in a mere 15 seconds. As a result, the surrounding “living room” display quickly caught fire. On the other hand, the watered tree never lit up more than a small flame in its center, which dissipated in about a minute and a half.

A hydrated tree is less likely to catch fire than a brittle tree, but in the event that it does ignite, the fire will grow much slower, giving homeowners more time to call the fire department and evacuate.

The holiday season is one of the most dangerous times of year for household fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), six people die each year as a result of house fires that began with a Christmas tree. Between 2011 and 2015, fire departments responded to about 200 house fires during the holidays that caused approximately $14.8 million in property damage, the NFPA’s 2017 report read.

The NFPA also shared a number of safety tips for preventing Christmas tree-related house fires, starting with choosing the right tree. They recommend choosing one with fresh, green needles that don’t fall off easily. Before the tree is placed in the stand, two inches should be cut from the base of the trunk.

For best safety, the tree should be placed at least three feet away from any source of heat, such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights. The Christmas tree should be watered daily.

The lights used on the tree should come with a label from a recognized testing laboratory, according to Fox 13 Tampa Bay. These lights should be turned off before going to bed or leaving the home.

After Christmas, discard the tree as soon as possible, as they are often left to dry out and can still be a hazard. Trees should be far from the house and recycled. Some communities offer a tree recycling program to help with this.

The NFPA website offers additional tips for keeping homes safe during the holidays.