Christmas tree fires are real and can happen.
"Christmas trees account for 240 fires annually, resulting in 13 deaths and more than $16.7 million in property damage," according to the National Fire Protection Assocation.
And all that damage can happen pretty quickly — as in, 45 seconds or less — according to a video clip from the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
In the video, a dry Scotch pine erupts into flames in five seconds.
"The fire extends up the tree and black smoke with searing gases streaks across the ceiling," the U.S. Fire Administration reports in "Christmas Tree Fire Hazards."
The report continues:
"Fresh air near the floor feeds the fire. The sofa, coffee table and the carpet ignite prior to any flame contact. Within 40 seconds, 'flashover' occurs. That's when an entire room erupts into flames, oxygen is depleted and dense [and] deadly toxic smoke engulfs the scene."
In general, you'll want to keep your live trees watered and free from heat or candles. Double check your tree and decorative lights and replace them if they are getting old, have excessive wear or wire damage. And only use lights that are UL listed (this means they've been tested in a laboratory; look for the "UL" label).
Dunedin Fire Marshal Bill McElligott shared some reminders with Patch that will help keep any home ( in the Tampa Bay and elsewhere)free of tree and other fires this winter:
1) Use flame-resistant decorations.
2) Ensure lights are in good condition and that they are UL listed (look for the marks and labels).
3) Replace damaged electrical or extension cords.
4) Keep live Christmas trees watered.
5) Unplug holiday lights before leaving home or go to bed.
6) Don't put a live tree up too early or for longer than two weeks.
7) Keep anything that can burn (especially trees) at least three feet away from space heaters, woodstoves, etc.
8) Be careful with candles and open flames. Avoid them if possible. Use flameless candles instead.
9) Stay in the kitchen when cooking something on top of the stove or when grilling or broiling food.
10) Never use the oven or stovetop to heat a home.