The holiday season should be a time of joy but, each year, preventable fires caused by Christmas trees and holiday decorations bring tragedy to families all across the country. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), each year firefighters respond to an average of 170 home fires that are reportedly caused by Christmas trees, and some 800 fires that start from holiday decorations (not including trees).
Keeping families safe and preventing home fires is the goal of the annual Christmas Tree and Fire Sprinkler Burn Demonstration that will be held at 1 p.m., Thursday, December 5 at the Monmouth County Fire Academy in Freehold, N.J. The Chairman of the New Jersey Fire Safety Commission, Kevin Krushinski, will be a special guest speaker at the event. The event is sponsored by former Assemblyman John Wisniewski in conjunction with the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB) and Sprinkler Fitters Local 696.
“The burn demonstration is a great way to show how dangerously fast fires can spread, the effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems to control the blaze, and to educate families about steps they can take to reduce the risk of fires at home,” declared Wisniewski, the former chairman of the N.J. Fire Safety Commission.
“Smoke detectors are an important tool, but the life-saving technology of fire sprinklers can provide more time to safely escape a blaze and can reduce incidents of injury and death,” stated David Kurasz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. “In fact, fire sprinklers installed in homes can reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 80 percent, and reduce property loss by 70 percent.”
The burn features a Side-by-Side Burn Trailer equipped with two rooms, each outfitted with similar furniture, a Christmas tree and holiday decorations. Both rooms have smoke alarms, but only one room has been equipped with a fire sprinkler system. A small fire is lit in each room allowing the audience to see how quickly Christmas trees (particularly dry trees) can catch fire a ignite other items in the room. The room without the sprinkler is often destroyed in seconds, while the flames are quickly suppressed in the room with the fire sprinkler. The demonstration will also feature fire safety tips and educational information about protecting your home and family from fire during the holidays and year-round.
Here are some simple tips families can use to help prevent home fires this holiday season.
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- Keep the tree hydrated and add water daily. Tip: Use of ice cubes, they melt and are easier to place into the tree stand and help avoid spilling water.
- Keep the tree, and decorations, at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
- Use lights appropriately: some are only for indoor or outdoor use, and check that they have been laboratory tested (such as UL).
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulbs, and check manufacturer’s guidelines for the number of strands to connect.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights to reduce cord damage.
- Do not overload electrical outlets.
- Choose flame retardant decorations.
- Avoid using lit candles on trees and near curtains and other flammable materials, or in the presence of small children (opt for safer battery-operated candles).
- Make sure the tree and other decorations are not blocking an exit.