Live Christmas trees went on sale in the valley this week. Just about every year, incidents involving live Christmas trees inside buildings increase the week just before the holiday through the end of the holiday period. The major reason is the tree was not kept sufficiently hydrated. People who have real trees inside buildings should take extra precautions during the next few weeks.
Because of the dryness of the desert air and with the unusually warm weather this year, it is extremely important that the trees be watered every day. It is not uncommon for the tree to need no less than two gallons of plain water every day. It should be watered once in the morning and again in the evening. The water reservoir should never be permitted to run dry. If the water runs out, the tree will form a sap seal on the bottom of the trunk within 10 minutes to hold what water it has left inside. Once the sap seal is formed, no water will be able to get into the tree. The sap seal would have to be cut off the bottom of the tree trunk to let water get back into the tree. This is why it is so important to ensure the bottom of the trunk is always in water, so the sap seal can never form.
Extensive tests have shown that there is no water additive that helps prolong the life of Christmas trees. It’s best to use plain drinking water at room temperature and ensure the bottom of the tree trunk is always covered by several inches of water.
In a demonstration performed by Las Vegas Fire & Rescue, two trees that were in Las Vegas homes after a holiday period were used to prove the importance of keeping trees watered. One tree was in a home for only two weeks and not well maintained. It burned in less than one minute. The other tree was inside a home from Nov. 15 through Jan. 5, but kept watered. Even with direct flame on the branches, the tree would not ignite.
One of the most common ignition sources of tree fires is electric lighting. If the tree is not properly watered, even small lights can provide enough heat to cause a fire.
Here are some Christmas tree safety tips:
Getting A Tree
- When selecting a tree, its appearance should be dark green and there should be some fragrance to it; this indicates there is still some moisture in the tree.
- The trees in the lot should be sitting in a bucket or bowl that is full of water, which indicates the tree was maintained.
- Perform a freshness test. Gently pull on a branch with a closed hand to see if needles will fall off into your hand. If needles fall off in excess, this means the tree is dead or dying and is not a good choice.
- When transporting the tree, cover it with a light plastic sheet so the wind will not pull out any moisture from the tree. Exposed to wind, the tree acts like a radiator and will lose its moisture.
- Once the tree arrives at its destination, cut off approximately one-half inch of the bottom of the tree trunk and then immediately put the tree in a bucket of water. This will allow water to enter the tree.
- Prepare a place inside the building to set up the tree. The location should be away from heating or electrical devices so the tree will not dry out more quickly.
Once The Tree Is Set Up In A Building
- Water the tree every day, even twice a day, if needed. Never let it run dry. (It is best to water the tree before going to bed, and again just before leaving for work).
- Perform a freshness test every day. Gently pull on a branch with a closed hand to see if needles will fall off. If needles fall off in excess, this means the tree is dead and is a hazard. It should be removed.
- Inspect all electric lighting for frayed or broken wiring before putting lights on the tree.
- Shut off electric lighting on the tree when you go to bed or leave the home.
- Keep the tree away from heat sources that will accelerate drying out the tree.
- Keep smoking materials and candles away from trees.
If a tree should catch fire, leave the building immediately. It can consume an entire room in less than one minute.
MEDIA NOTE: Video of the Christmas tree test mentioned above on a DVD is available on request. The test was conducted in Las Vegas on trees taken from two Las Vegas homes during a holiday period. It is a true example of the importance of keeping a tree watered in a building. For more information, contact PIO Tim Szymanski (702) 303-2993.