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The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree: Avoid It


For the second time in as many months, California is experiencing historic wildfires. Fueled by years of drought, the arid conditions on the ground combined with powerful Santa Anna winds have kept the biggest of the fires, the Thomas Fire, burning for over a week near Los Angeles. The Thomas Fire has already burned an estimated 231,700 acres and caused more than $48.6 million in damages, and it is only 20% contained as of December 11, 2017. Its size places the Thomas Fire among the top five largest California fires of the modern era.

Watching these fires spread provides a cautionary tale for the devastation fires of all types and origin leave in their wake. Regardless of how a fire starts, it spreads quickly and destroys everything in its path. As the homeowners in California know, whether you are a celebrity or even a firefighter does not matter; fires do not discriminate or show preference when destroying homes and lives.

So at this time of year, it is essential to be smart about Christmas trees, decorations and lights. Below are statistics from the National Fire Protection Association about holiday fires followed by recommended safety precautions.


Between 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 200 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 2 out of every 5 (40%) home Christmas tree fires. Furthermore, in one quarter (26%) of Christmas tree fires, and in 80% of deaths from these fires, some type of heat source such as a candle or heating equipment, was too close to the tree.

For home fires not caused by Christmas trees but by other holiday decorations, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 840 home structure fires per year between 2011-2015. These fires caused an annual average of 2 deaths, 36 injuries and $11.4 million in direct property damage.


The NFPA recommends the following with respect to picking, placing and maintaining Christmas trees and associated decorations:

  1. When picking a tree, choose one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. In other words, do NOT pick a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
  2. Before placing the treen in a stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk so that the tree can soak up water.
  3. Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source such as a fireplace, radiator, candle, heat vent, or light.
  4. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  5. Add fresh water to the tree daily.
  6. Only use lights on the tree that have the label of an independent testing lab.
  7. Replace any string of lights that is worn, or has broken cords, or loose bulbs or connections.
  8. Always use the proper extension cords (indoor for the tree, outdoor for outdoor lights), and make sure they are appropriate for the kind of lights for which they are being used.
  9. Always unplug the tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  10. Get rid of the tree after the holidays; dried out trees are an even greater fire hazard.
  11. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays; it will preserve them for next year and minimize their fire risk as well.

In addition to the above safety tips specific to the holidays, remember to always have working smoke detectors in your home.


If you or a loved one is injured in a house fire, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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