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Friday, 16 December 2011 13:26:16 Europe/London
I recently saw the above fire safety video which gives a shocking demonstration of the dangers of a real Christmas tree catching fire. The video shows two living room fires filmed in a laboratory - the rooms are fully furnished but have one open wall to allow filming. The first section shows a fire developing in an everyday living room, and the second shows the spread of a fire from a real Christmas tree. As the video shows, if your Christmas tree catches fire it will very quickly escalate much more rapidly. With that in mind, I decided this would be a good time to go over some essential safety tips for real Christmas trees.
Where To Put Your Christmas Tree
Make sure your Christmas tree isn't blocking doorways, and that it is situated somewhere it is unlikely to get bumped into or knocked over. Think about the location of electrical sockets as well - you don't want your fairy light cable to be within reach of children and pets or to turn into a tripwire which could cause someone to fall or pull the tree over. Keep your real Christmas tree away from heat sources - this includes working fireplaces, wood burning stoves, gas or electric fires, radiators and direct sunlight. This isn't just about preventing the tree from shedding needles - if the tree dries out it becomes a more serious fire hazard.
Don't Let Your Christmas Tree Dry Out
The wood of a real Christmas tree is very resinous, so it will catch fire easily as well as burning hot and fast. The lower the moisture content, the easier it is for the tree to catch fire and the faster it will burn. An average sized Christmas tree can need up to a gallon of water per day to stop it drying out, and dried sap can quickly form a seal which prevents the tree from absorbing water. Make a fresh cut at the base so the tree can take in water and refill the water container every day, making sure the water level doesn't drop below the cut surface.
Look After Your Lights
No Christmas tree is complete without garlands of fairy lights, but the heat from the lights has an unwelcome drying affect which can be minimised by using miniature lights or even LED lights and turning them off when nobody is in the room to enjoy the tree. Always check before use for frayed or broken cables and damaged bulbs or sockets. It's better to replace a set of faulty or damaged lights than to use them and risk starting a fire. Also make sure you don't overload electrical sockets, and turn the lights off at night.
General Fire Safety
It's always a good idea to close doors at night - should a fire start this will slow down the spread of smoke and flames. Make sure your smoke alarms are working, and fit some if you haven't done so already. Over the Christmas period your living room is more likely to get cluttered with flammable material than normal, so tidy up regularly especially last thing at night. If you use candles make sure they are sited on a heat-resistant surface out of reach of children and pets, and that you put them out before leaving the room unattended or going to bed.
Disposing Of Your Christmas Tree
Once Christmas is over and the decorations are taken down dispose of your tree promptly. If you have a working fireplace or a wood burning stove it is tempting to cut up your Christmas tree and burn it. This isn't the best way to dispose of the tree though as the wood can burn explosively. If you have a garden chipper you could shred the tree to use as mulch, or alternately take it to the garden waste section of your local tip.