Annual Christmas Tree Burn Demonstration
How one family’s tragedy can keep yours safe this holiday season
Just one spark from an electrical cord, faulty holiday light, candle flame or an errant fireplace ember can turn a dry Christmas tree into a raging inferno in minutes — damaging your home and taking innocent lives.
To help keep families safe and prevent home fires this holiday, the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB) and Local Sprinkler Fitters 696 hosted the annual Christmas Tree and Fire Sprinkler Burn Demonstration on Thursday, December 3 at the Monmouth County Fire Academy, 1027 Rt. 33, Freehold, N.J.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions the general public was unable to attend but the demonstration was live streamed on the National Fire Sprinkler Association Facebook page.
Click here to view the event.
Special guest speakers included: Dave Kurasz, Executive Director of NJFSAB; Sher Grogg, a fire sprinkler advocate who lost a brother, sister-in-law and four grandchildren due to a Christmas tree fire; Rich Mikutsky, Director of NJ Division of Fire Safety; and John Wisniewski, Commissioner of NJ Fire Safety Commission, Former Assemblyman
The demonstration featured 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 goal of this annual demonstration is to educate the public and save lives,” said David Kurasz, Executive Director of NJFSAB. “We offer simple steps families can take to reduce the risk of fire, show them first-hand how dangerously fast fire can spread, and demonstrate how effectively fire sprinklers can control the blaze providing more time to safely escape a burning home. 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.”
Special guest Sher Grogg will told the tragic story of how an electrical fire ignited a live Christmas tree and in minutes devastated her family, claiming her brother, sister-in-law and four grandchildren. “Grogg who lives in New York, has become a fire sprinkler advocate with Common Voices, stating in her story that: “It didn’t matter that their alarm system alerted fire authorities. The only thing that could have saved them would have been a fire sprinkler system, which could have bought them the extra time needed to escape.”
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that 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). Sadly, on average, one of every 52 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires.
The causes of Christmas tree fires vary, with 44% the result of faulty electrical or lighting equipment and 25% due to some type of heat source (such as a candle) being too close to the tree. Nearly 40 percent of Christmas tree fires start in the living room.
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.
For more information about fire safety and fire sprinklers visit the website NJFSAB.org.