Web Exclusive: Unexpected dangers of Christmas trees


UPDATED - Wednesday, December 11, 2013 --- 7:22 p.m.

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also one of the most dangerous.

Every year, Christmas tree fires lead to 17 million dollars in property damage across the country, and multiple injuries or deaths.

Keep your tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like a heating vent or fireplace. Also, keep candles 12 inches from anything that could catch on fire. Check lights for frayed wires, kinks or brittle plastic. Make sure to connect no more than 3 strands of lights at a time to to prevent your home from being a fire hazard.

Don't overlook watering your tree. A well-watered tree takes minutes to catch fire and may not spread, while a dry tree can be fully engulfed within 30 seconds.

"What a dry Christmas tree will end up being is like a torch. When it gets on fire, it just spreads extremely fast, and in less than a minute, a dry Christmas tree can be completely consumed by fire," says Fitchburg Firefighter and Fire Inspector Adam Dorn.

"Take that, and put that into a room where you have all sorts of Christmas presents-- they're wrapped-- a lot of stuff in your homes nowadays as far as furniture are oil based, so the fire that we have today in a house is much hotter and much more dangerous than we did even 10, 20, 30 years ago," says Dorn.

The Fitchburg Fire Department wants residents to stay safe from tree fires, and they're keeping track with a program called, "Keep the Wreath Green." A wreath strung with lights hangs outside the Fire Station No. 1, and each green bulb will be replaced with a red one whenever there's a structure fire within city limits this holiday season.

The wreath sits with one red bulb, from a fire early in December, but they hope residents will take tree safety seriously to keep the rest of the wreath green.

"Smoke detectors are so important," says Dorn. "To make sure you have a smoke detector on every level of your home, make sure there's batteries in those smoke detectors-- they are there for you to get out safely. That's the most important thing."

One more ornament on your tree may also help to keep your family safe this season.

A new product called the Christmas Tree Safety System features 2 parts. An angel-looking ornament to hang on your tree, and a sensor to place near your bed. The product is a heat detector and sends out an alarm when the tree ornament reaches 150 degrees. If a fire breaks out, the Safety System is made to detect the heat and alert the family right away. As a bonus, the ornament has 2 LED bulbs that flash to remind you to water your tree each day.

NBC15 tested the Safety System by using a blow dryer to heat up the ornament sensor. Within seconds, the bedroom sensor sounded a loud alarm until the batteries were taken out.

The Christmas Tree Safety System is a new product, that has been approved by the FCC and MET laboratories.

Firefighters say there's no replacement for smoke detectors in your house, but it could be a useful tool.
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Every year, Christmas tree fires lead to 17 million dollars in property damage across the country, and multiple injuries or deaths.

Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013 --- 6:25 p.m.

Keeping your tree away from heat sources and candles may help prevent fires, but one more ornament on your tree may help to keep your family safe this season.

A new product called the Christmas Tree Safety System features 2 parts. One to stay on your tree, and the other near your bed. The product is a heat detector and sends out an alarm when the tree ornament reaches 150 degrees.

We tested the detector with hot air from a hair dryer, and the alarm sounded until we took the batteries out.

The product has been tested at MET laboratories. The fire department says it is no replacement for a smoke detector, but it may be a useful item.


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