HOME CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOLIDAY LIGHT FIRES. John R. Hall, Jr. November 2013

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1 HOME CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOLIDAY LIGHT FIRES John R. Hall, Jr. November 2013

2 HOME CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOLIDAY LIGHT FIRES John R. Hall, Jr. November 2013

3 Abstract NFPA estimates that Christmas trees, both natural and artificial, were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 230 reported home structure fires per year during These fires caused an estimated average of six civilian deaths, 22 civilian injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage per year. These estimates are based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration s (USFA s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association s (NFPA s) annual fire department experience survey. During the same period, holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 150 home structure fires per year. These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. Keywords: Christmas tree, holiday lights, fire statistics, decorative lights, home fires, residential fires Acknowledgements The National Fire Protection Association thanks all the fire departments and state fire authorities who participate in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the annual NFPA fire experience survey. These firefighters are the original sources of the detailed data that make this analysis possible. Their contributions allow us to estimate the size of the fire problem. We are also grateful to the U.S. Fire Administration for its work in developing, coordinating, and maintaining NFIRS. For more information about the National Fire Protection Association, visit or call To learn more about the One-Stop Data Shop go to or call Copies of this analysis are available from: National Fire Protection Association One-Stop Data Shop 1 Batterymarch Park Quincy, MA phone: NFPA No. USS39 Copyright 2013, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA

4 Executive Summary The winter holiday season should be a joyous time of year. However, certain types of fires and injuries associated with holiday decorating are much more common during this season. Christmas tree fires In , U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 230 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. Home Christmas tree fires caused an average of six civilian deaths, 22 civilian injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage per year. Although these fires are not common, when they do occur, they are unusually likely to be serious. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires. Similar shares of home Christmas tree structure fires were in December (43%) and January (39%). Christmas tree fires are more likely after Christmas than before. For example, none of the ten dates with the largest shares of home Christmas tree structure fires were before Christmas. Electrical failures or malfunctions were involved in one-third (32%) of the home Christmas tree structure fires. One in six (17%) occurred because some type of heat source was too close to the tree. Decorative lights on line voltage were involved in 12% of these incidents. Seven percent of home Christmas tree fires were started by candles. Twenty percent of home Christmas tree structure fires were intentionally set. Half of the intentional Christmas tree fires occurred in the 20 days after Christmas. The risk of fire is higher with natural trees than artificial ones. Researchers found that dry natural trees burned easily but trees that had been kept moist are unlikely to catch fire unintentionally. Fires involving holiday lights or other decorative lighting with line voltage Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 150 home structure fires per year in this same period. These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. Two out of five (40%) occurred in December and 12% were in January. Fifteen percent of these fires began with Christmas trees. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in nearly two-thirds (64%) of the fires involving holiday or decorative lights. Falls related to holiday decorating In a study of fall-related injuries during the holiday season, Stevens and Vajani estimated that an annual average of roughly 5,800 fall injuries related to holiday decorating were treated at hospital emergency rooms between November 1 and January 31 in , , and Sixty-two percent of those injured were between 20 and 49 years of age, compared to 43% of the population in this age group. With 43% of the injuries resulting from falls from ladders and 13% caused by falls from the roof, it appears that the majority of these falls occurred during outdoor decorating. Falls from furniture, typically inside the structure, accounted for 11% of the injuries. Some falls occurred when people tripped over or slipped on tree skirts or other decorations. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 i NFPA Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

5 Table of Contents Executive Summary Table of Contents List of Figures and Tables Home Christmas Tree Fires Fact Sheet Home Fires Involving Holiday or Other Decorative Lights Fact Sheet Home Structure Fires Originating with Christmas Trees 1 Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lighting with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition 15 Appendix A. How National Estimates Statistics Are Calculated 23 Appendix B. Selected Published Incidents 31 Page i ii iii iv v Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 ii NFPA Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

6 List of Figures and Tables Page Figure 1. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited, by Year 1 Figure 2. Deaths in Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited: Five-Year Rolling Averages 3 Figure 3. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited, by Month 3 Figure 4. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited by Time of Alarm 4 Table 1. U.S. Home Structure Fires in which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Year 9 Table 2. By Extent of Flame Damage 10 Table 3. By Factor Contributing to Ignition 11 Table 4. By Cause 12 Table 5. By Equipment Involved in Ignition 12 Table 6. By Heat Source 13 Table 7. By Area of Origin 14 Figure 5. Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lights with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition, by Month 16 Figure 6. Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lights with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition, by Time of Alarm 16 Figure 7. By Item First Ignited 17 Table 8. By Extent of Flame Damage 19 Table 9. By Cause 19 Table 10. By Factor Contributing to Ignition 20 Table 11. By Item First Ignited 21 Table 12. By Area of Origin 22 Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 iii NFPA Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

7 Home Christmas Tree Fires Fact Sheet Fire Analysis & Research U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 230 home 1 structure fires that began with Christmas trees in These fires caused an annual average of 6 civilian fire deaths, 22 civilian fire injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage On average, one of every 40 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited by Month: January, 39% December, 43% February- November, 18% Four of every five Christmas tree fires occurred in December and January. Of the 10 days with the largest shares of Christmas tree fires, none were before Christmas. Electrical problems were factors in one-third (32%) of home Christmas tree structure fires. Twelve percent of home Christmas tree fires involved decorative lights. Candles started 7% of home Christmas tree structure fires. Two of every five (39%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den. 1 Homes are dwellings, duplexes, manufactured homes, apartments, townhouses, and rowhouses. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 iv NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

8 Fire Analysis & Research Home Fires Involving Holiday or Other Decorative Lights Fact Sheet Holiday or other decorative lights with line voltage were involved in an average of 150 home 1 structure fires per year, resulting in an average of 9 civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $8.4 million in direct property damage. Leading Items First ignited in Holiday Light Home Structure Fires Christmas tree Wire or cable insulation Decoration 11% 13% 15% Exterior wall covering Structural member or framing Light vegetation including grass Curtain or drape 6% 6% 5% 5% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% Two out of five (40%) of these fires were reported in December and 12% occurred in January In nearly one sixth (15%) of these fires, Christmas trees were the item first ignited. Electrical problems were factors in nearly two-thirds (64%) of these fires. Something that could burn was too close to the lights in 19% of the fires. Falls are also a problem. A study found that roughly 5,800 people per year were treated at hospital emergency rooms for falls associated with holiday decorations during November to January. 2 1 Homes are dwellings, duplexes, manufactured homes, apartments, townhouses, and rowhouses. 2 J.A. Stevens and M. Vajami. Fall-Related Injuries During the Holiday Season United States, , MMWR Weekly, December 10, 2004, 53(48); , online at Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 v NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

9 Christmas Tree Safety As you deck the halls this holiday season, be fire smart. A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can grow large very quickly. Picking the tree KKK Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Placing the tree KKK Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2 from the base of the trunk. KKK Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. KKK Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit. KKK Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily. Lighting the tree KKK Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use. KKK Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer s instructions for number of LED strands to connect. KKK Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. KKK Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. Your Source for SAFETY Information NFPA Public Education Division 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA After Christmas Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer. FACTS! One of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical failures.! Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious.! A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every six of the fires.

10 Home Structure Fires Originating with Christmas Trees On average, 230 home structure fires began with Christmas trees per year. During , Christmas trees were the items first ignited in an estimated average of 230 reported home structure fires per year. These fires caused an estimated average of six civilian deaths, 22 civilian injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage per year. Christmas tree fires accounted for 0.1% of the reported home fires, 0.2% of home fire deaths, 0.2% of home fire injuries, and 0.3% of the direct property damage resulting from home fires. Home Christmas tree structure fires have been fairly stable over the past decade. Table 1 and Figure 1 show that the number of Christmas tree fires declined fairly steadily from 1980 through the late 1990s. Overall, these fires fell a total of 71% from a high of 850 in 1980 to 250 in 2011, following two lower totals in 2009 and Home structure fires overall fell 50% from 1980 to In recent years, the estimated number of reported home fires starting with Christmas trees has generally fallen between 210 and 280, with no clear trend up or down relative to the size of the year-to-year variation Figure 1. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited by Year Note: See Note and Source on Table 1. In , participation in NFIRS Version 5.0 was low, which means estimates for these years are highly uncertain and is why those estimates are not shown here. Source: NFIRS and NFPA survey Deaths from Christmas tree fires peaked in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. Over the 32-year period of 1980 to 2011, the projected number of Christmas tree fire deaths ranged from a low of zero to a high of 54. Because these statistics are projections and not a complete census of all fire deaths resulting from these fires, it is possible to have an estimate of zero deaths in a year when some deaths actually occurred. A fire that kills several people, when projected, can result in an artificially high estimate of deaths. If only data reported to NFIRS were included, the statistics would always underestimate the fires because of different reporting requirements and practices. 1 Marty Ahrens. Home Structure Fires, Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 1 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

11 Data Sources, Definitions and Conventions Used in this Report Unless otherwise specified, the statistics in this analysis are national estimates of fires reported to U.S. municipal fire departments and so exclude fires reported only to Federal or state agencies or industrial fire brigades. These estimates are projections based on the detailed information collected in Version 5.0 of the U.S. Fire Administration s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS 5.0) and the National Fire Protection Association s (NFPA s) annual fire department experience survey. Except for property use and incident type, fires with unknown or unreported data were allocated proportionally in calculations of national estimates. In general, any fire that occurs in or in a structure is considered a structure fire, even if the fire was limited to contents and the building itself was not damaged. Christmas trees were identified by NFIRS 5.0 Item First Ignited code 41. Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were identified by Equipment Involved in Ignition code 242. Homes were captured by property use codes in the range. Structure fires were identified by incident type NFIRS 5.0 includes a category of structure fires collectively referred to as confined fires, identified by incident type. These include confined cooking fires, confined chimney or flue fires, confined trash fires, confined fuel burner or boiler fires, confined commercial compactor fires, and confined incinerator fires (incident type ). Losses are generally minimal in these fires, which by definition, are assumed to have been limited to the object of origin. Although causal data is not required for these fires, it is sometimes present. The percentage of unknown data is much higher for confined fires than non-confined fires. For fires originating with Christmas trees, confined and non-confined fires were analyzed separately and summed for Cause of Ignition, Heat Source, Factor Contributing to Ignition, Area of Origin, and Item First Ignited. Non-confined fires were analyzed for Equipment Involved in Ignition. For that table, confined fires were not broken out further and were grouped by incident type with the non-confined fires. Casualty and loss projections can be heavily influenced by the inclusion or exclusion of one unusually serious fire. Property damage has not been adjusted for inflation. Fires are rounded to the nearest ten, civilian deaths and injuries to the nearest one, and direct property damage to the nearest hundred thousand. Additional details on the methodology may be found in Appendix A. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 2 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

12 Figure 2 shows five-year estimated averages of deaths, beginning with the period of , and ending with Because of low participation in NFIRS Version 5.0 in , those estimates are highly uncertain and are not shown here. Figure 2. Deaths in Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited, Five-Year Rolling Averages Source: NFIRS and NFPA survey Figure 3 shows that similar shares of reported Christmas tree fires occurred in December (43%), and January (39%). Of the ten dates with the largest shares of reported home Christmas tree fires, none are before Christmas Day. The longer a tree is kept after Christmas, it seems, the more likely it is to dry out and become easy to ignite. Figure 4 shows that these fires peaked between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. Figure 3. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited By Month: February- November, 18% December, 43% January, 39% Source: NFIRS and NFPA survey Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 3 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

13 Figure 4. Home Structure Fires in which Christmas Trees W ere First Ignited by Time of Alarm: % 20% 20% 20% 15% 11% 13% 12% 14% 10% 5% 5% 6% 0% Source: NFIRS and NFPA survey Flame damage was limited to the room of origin in two-thirds of these fires. Table 2 shows that three out of ten (28%) of the reported fires that began with Christmas trees were confined fires identified by incident type. Presumably, damage in these fires was confined to the object of origin. Thirteen percent of the Christmas tree fires had an incident type other than the six specific ones used for confined fires but had flame damage confined to the object of origin. All of the deaths resulting from fires starting with Christmas trees were caused by incidents in which flame damage spread beyond the room of origin. If a Christmas tree fire occurs, the risk of death is unusually high. Although the number of home structure fires beginning with Christmas trees is relatively small, it is important to remember that these items are generally in use a short time each year. When they do occur, Christmas tree fires are unusually likely to be serious. In , on average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires. Three examples of deadly Christmas tree fires illustrate how these fires can happen. These incidents, taken from NFPA s Fire Incident Data Organization (FIDO) anecdotal database, were previously published in either NFPA Journal s Firewatch column, or in NFPA s studies of catastrophic fires. The full published incident descriptions may be found in Appendix B. A 14-year-old boy died in a 2007 fire in an Illinois single-family home that started when lights on the Christmas tree failed and ignited the tree. The fire spread to wall coverings and the couch. 2 2 Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2008, Christmas Tree Fire Kills One, Illinois, NFPA Journal, March/April, Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 4 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

14 Four people, including a 1-year old boy, a 12-year-old girl, a 38-year-old woman, and a 40-year-old man, died in a 2007 Pennsylvania fire in a single-family home that started when an electrical fault ignited combustibles, including an artificial Christmas tree and a sofa. Three people were injured when they jumped from other floors to escape the blaze. 3 In 2005, a Christmas tree fire started by an extension cord in a Tennessee singlefamily dwelling killed four people. 4 Causes of Christmas Tree Fires Electrical problems were factors in one-third of home Christmas tree fires. Table 3 shows that some type of electrical failure or malfunction was a factor in one-third (32%) of the home structure fires that originated with Christma s trees and one-fifth (19%) of associated civilian deaths. One out of six (17%) home Christmas tree fires was caused by some type of heat source too close to the tree, an abandoned or discarded material was a factor in 15%, and 13% resulted from an unclassified misuse of material or product. In 8%, an outside or open fire for waste disposal played a role, while 8% of the fires resulted from someone, typically a child, playing with fire or other heat source. One-fifth of home Christmas tree fires were intentional. Table 4 shows that 20% of home Christmas tree structure fires were intentionally set. Decorative lights were involved in 12% of the incidents. Table 5 shows that over half (56%) of Christmas tree fires in homes were coded as no equipment involved. Decorative lights on line voltage (including holiday lights) were involved in 12% of these fires, while unclassified wiring or related equipment was involved in 8%. Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in 4%. Cords or plugs were also involved in 4% of the fires. Candles started 7% of home Christmas tree structure fires. Arcing was the heat source in 21% of home Christmas tree structure fires, hot embers or ashes started 12%, matches started 9%, unclassified heat from powered equipment started 8%, and radiated or conducted heat from operating equipment ( like a space heater) also were the heat source in 8%. (See Table 6.) The living room, family room or den was the leading area of origin for Christmas tree fires. Table 7 shows that two of every five (39%) home structure Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room or den. Most losses associated with Christmas tree fires were associated with fires beginning in that area. An unclassified function area accounted for 12% of the home Christmas tree fires, and an unclassified outside area accounted for 7%. 3 Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2009, House Fire Kills Four, Pennsylvania, NFPA Journal, January/February, Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2006, Overloaded Extension Cord Ignites Christmas Tree, Tennessee, NFPA Journal, November/December, 20. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 5 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

15 A disproportionate share of Christmas tree fires involved natural trees. The data element type of material first ignited provides the best indication of whether the Christmas tree was artificial or natural. The code for plastic implies an artificial tree (although it could also refer to plastic ornaments on the tree) and the codes for unclassified natural product, unclassified wood or paper, round timber and sawn wood all imply a natural tree. Other codes for wood do not as clearly relate to a natural tree and also make little difference in the share of fires attributable to natural trees. Based on these coding conventions, fires involving natural trees outnumber fires involving artificial trees by about 3 to 1, and the ratios are even higher for associated losses: 13 to 1 for civilian injuries and 6 to 1 for direct property damage. No deaths were estimated for artificial tree fires. According to results of annual consumer surveys by the National Christmas Tree Association, purchases of real trees outnumbered purchases of artificial trees by 2.6-to-1 in However, most artificial trees are used for more than one year, which is why a 2012 Nielsen survey commissioned by the American Christmas Tree association found usage of artificial trees exceeding usage of real Christmas trees by 3.6-to-1 (83% vs. 23% of homes displaying a Christmas tree, reflecting the fact that 6% of homes display both types). 6 This implies a considerably higher fire risk with natural trees. Dry natural trees catch fire easily, but trees that have been kept moist do not. In 1999, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted tests to measure the heat release of Scotch Pine Christmas trees. Seven trees had been allowed to dry out for three weeks, while the eighth had been cut fresh and kept in a bucket of water. The first seven trees had dry needles that were slightly brown and brittle and fell when a branch was shaken. The eighth tree had greener pliable needles that did not separate from the tree as easily. An electric match easily ignited the first seven trees, but the electric match did not ignite the eighth tree that had been kept moist. 7 White, DeMars, and Bishop also explored the flammability of Christmas trees. 8 They cited a 1963 Canada Department of Forestry Study by C. E. Van Wagner that found that matches could not ignite Christmas trees that had been continuously standing in water. However, if a tree had dried to below the moisture recovery limit, it continued to dry out even if again placed in water. The same study found that a burning ring around the base of the tree could ignite the crown of any of the trees. In their study, White, Demars, and Bishop tested trees with four different types of initial conditioning: immediately placed in water, bundled, laid in a pile without bundling, and bundled but left in storage. Different types of trees were cut according to industry practices for that type. In three conditions, the tree was stored in an apartment. In the fourth, the trees were kept in a garage. In final conditioning for all four, the bottom of each tree was trimmed and the tree was placed in water. Tests were done with four D.W. Stroup, L. DeLauter, J. Lee and G. Roadarmel. Scotch Pine Christmas Tree Fire Tests: Report of Test FR 4010, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Building and Fire Research Laboratory, December 1, 2000, online at 8 Robert H. White. Donald DeMars, and Mark Bishop. "Flammability of Christmas Trees and Other Vegetation," Proceedings of the International Conference on Fire Safety, Volume 24, 1997, online at Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 6 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

16 ignition sources: a match, a lighter, a sustained electric arc, and an overheated wire. In most cases, no ignition occurred. In a few, some needles ignited, but the fire was self-extinguished after the heat source was removed. The authors conclude: If proper procedures of cutting the stem and keeping it in plain water are followed by the consumer, our MN data support the position that the moisture content of the tree will likely be sufficient to make accidental ignition of the tree itself from matches, lighter, electric arc, or overheated wire very unlikely. The authors also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Products Library (FPL) no longer encourages the use of fire-retardant coatings with Christmas trees and instead stresses the importance of trimming the stem and keeping the tree in water. NFPA/UL video demonstrates the flammability of a dry vs. watered Christmas tree. Additional information about Christmas tree safety, including a video produced by NFPA and Underwriters Laboratories, is available in the seasonal safety section of safety information for consumers at Christmas Tree Fires. In the 90 second video, viewers can watch fire development after ignition simultaneously in two trees, one dry, and one watered. Information from NFPA 1, Fire Code, is also provided. Safety Tips Plan where your tree will be positioned. Use a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over. Make sure it is at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the fireplace, radiators, space heaters and other sources of heat. Do not place the tree in front of or near your way out of the room. Try to position it near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. When buying a real tree, check for fresh, green needles. Do not buy a tree which is dry or dropping needles. When buying an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant. When using a real tree, cut an additional two inches off the trunk. Place the tree in a sturdy stand. Keep your tree watered at all times. Buy lights with the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Use the correct lights for indoor, outdoor or indoor/outdoor use. Never use electric lights on a metal tree. Connect no more than three strands of miniature string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read the manufacturer s instructions for the number of light emitting diode (LED) strands to connect. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use tree lights. Lights with worn, cracked or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used. Never use staples or nails to hang light strings. Always unplug or switch off all holiday lights before leaving home or going to sleep. Keep a natural tree as moist as possible by giving it plenty of water daily. Never use lit candles to decorate a tree. Be sure any candles are well away from tree branches. Children are fascinated with Christmas trees. Keep a watchful eye on them when they are around the tree, and do not let them play with the wiring or lights. Remove the tree from your home when it begins dropping needles and dispose of it properly. Dried-out trees burn easily and should not be left in a garage or placed against the home. Take holiday lights down after the holidays. Holiday lights are for temporary, seasonal use up to 90 days. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 7 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

17 Discarded Christmas trees can be attractive targets for firesetters. Do not leave them outside long before pickup. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 8 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

18 Table 1. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Year Year Fires Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Adjusted Loss in Millions of 2011 Dollars $11.1 $ $7.0 $ $7.9 $ $9.8 $ $10.9 $ $13.3 $ $9.2 $ $11.2 $ $10.4 $ $14.1 $ $19.4 $ $18.0 $ $20.9 $ $33.4 $ $11.4 $ $19.1 $ $13.2 $ $10.3 $ $8.0 $ (380) 58 (58) $26.9 ($26.9) $ (380) 55 (55) $36.8 ($36.8) $ (290) 0 (0) $20.5 ($20.5) $ (270) 15 (15) $15.3 ($15.3) $ (210) 31 (31) $10.4 ($10.4) $ (180) 16 (16) $15.9 ($15.9) $ (210) 42 (42) $12.0 ($12.0) $ (150) 10 (10) $14.1 ($14.1) $ (200) 33 (33) $15.0 ($15.0) $ (150) 18 (18) $25.2 ($25.2) $ (170) 30 (30) $17.6 ($17.6) $ (160) 15 (15) $14.4 ($14.4) $ (160) 13 (13) $18.7 ($18.7) $18.7 Note: Estimates for 1999 and later years are based on data collected originally in NFIRS 5.0 only. The 1999 and later estimates shown without parentheses are sums of the non-confined (shown in parentheses) and confined fire (not shown) estimates. Confined fires are reported as confined to cooking vessel, chimney or flue, boiler or burner, incinerator, compactor, or trash. No injuries and very minimal property damage resulted from these confined fires. Due to the smaller share of NFIRS data collected in , statistics for these years should be viewed with caution. Source: Data from NFIRS Version 4.1 ( ) and Version 5.0 ( ) and from NFPA survey. Inflation adjustments were based on the consumer price index. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 9 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

19 Table 2. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Extent of Flame Damage Annual Averages Fire Spread Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Confined fire identified by incident type 60 (28%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Confined to object of origin 30 (13%) 0 (0%) 2 (7%) $0.8 (4%) Confined to room of origin 60 (26%) 0 (0%) 7 (32%) $3.4 (19%) Confined to floor of origin 20 (7%) 1 (14%) 3 (16%) $1.2 (7%) Confined to building of origin 50 (22%) 4 (72%) 6 (29%) $10.4 (57%) Beyond building of origin 10 (4%) 1 (13%) 3 (15%) $2.4 (13%) Total 230 (100%) 6 (100%) 22 (100%) $18.3 (100%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA survey. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 10 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

20 Table 3. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Factor Contributing to Ignition Annual Averages Factor Contributing to Ignition Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Heat source too close to combustibles 40 (17%) 3 (46%) 5 (21%) $4.9 (27%) Unclassified electrical failure or malfunction 40 (16%) 0 (0%) 4 (17%) $3.7 (20%) Abandoned or discarded material 30 (15%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Unclassified misuse of material or product 30 (13%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Unspecified short circuit arc 20 (9%) 1 (19%) 2 (9%) $4.1 (23%) Playing with heat source 20 (8%) 1 (19%) 5 (24%) $1.3 (7%) Outside or open fire for debris or waste disposal 20 (8%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Short circuit arc from defective or worn insulation 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 3 (12%) $0.7 (4%) Unclassified factor contributed to ignition 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $0.7 (4%) Failure to clean 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (0%) Other known factor* 40 (16%) 1 (16%) 3 (14%) $3.7 (20%) Total fires 230 (100%) 6 (100%) 22 (100%) $18.3 (100%) Total factors** 270 (113%) 6 (100%) 22 (100%) $19.4 (106%) All electrical failures and malfunctions 70 (32%) 1 (19%) 8 (37%) $8.8 (48%) * Leading factor for deaths not shown above is equipment overloaded (16% of deaths). ** Multiple entries are allowed which can result in sums higher than totals. Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. Fires in which the factor contributing to ignition was coded as none, unknown, or not reported have been allocated proportionally among fires with known factor contributing to ignition. Confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA survey. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 11 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

21 Table 4. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Cause Annual Averages Cause Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Unintentional 140 (58%) 3 (44%) 18 (82%) $14.0 (77%) Intentional 50 (20%) 0 (0%) 1 (6%) $0.4 (2%) Failure of equipment or heat source 40 (16%) 1 (16%) 3 (13%) $3.7 (20%) Unclassified cause 10 (3%) 2 (40%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Act of nature 10 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Total 230 (100%) 6 (100%) 22 (100%) $18.3 (100%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. Confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA survey. Table 5. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Equipment Involved in Ignition Annual Averages Equipment Involved Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) No equipment involved 130 (56%) 0 (0%) 4 (20%) $5.7 (31%) Decorative lights on line voltage 30 (12%) 3 (53%) 9 (41%) $4.1 (22%) Unclassified wiring or related equipment 20 (8%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $2.4 (13%) Portable or stationary space heater 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Cord or plug 10 (4%) 3 (47%) 6 (29%) $1.3 (7%) Unclassified lamp or light fixture 10 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $2.1 (12%) Other known equipment 20 (14%) 0 (0%) 2 (10%) $1.1 (13%) Total fires 230 (100%) 6 (100%) 22 (100%) $18.3 (100%) Note: Fires in which the equipment involved in ignition was unknown or not reported have been allocated proportionally among fires with known equipment involved. Fires in which the equipment involved in ignition was entered as none but the heat source indicated equipment involvement or the heat source was unknown were also treated as unknown and allocated proportionally among fires with known equipment involved. Confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA survey. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 12 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

22 Table 6. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Heat Source Annual Averages Heat Source Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Arcing 50 (21%) 2 (30%) 7 (34%) $6.2 (34%) Hot ember or ash 30 (12%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $0.6 (3%) Match 20 (9%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Unclassified heat from powered equipment 20 (8%) 1 (14%) 2 (11%) $1.4 (7%) Radiated or conducted heat from operating equipment 20 (8%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $2.2 (12%) Candle 20 (7%) 2 (40%) 1 (6%) $2.6 (14%) Unclassified heat source 20 (7%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $1.1 (6%) Unclassified hot or smoldering object 10 (6%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $1.2 (7%) Heat from other open flame or smoking materials 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $0.5 (3%) Lighter 10 (4%) 1 (16%) 3 (15%) $0.2 (1%) Spark, ember or flame from operating equipment 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 1 (5%) $0.7 (4%) Other known heat source 20 (11%) 0 (0%) 3 (18%) $0.7 (8%) Total fires 230 (100%) 6 (100%) 22 (100%) $18.3 (100%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. The statistics on matches, lighters, smoking materials and candles include a proportional share of fires in which the heat source was heat from an unclassified open flame or smoking material. Confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA survey. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 13 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

23 Table 7. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Area of Origin Annual Averages Area of Origin Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Living room, family room, or den 90 (39%) 6 (100%) 19 (86%) $12.2 (67%) Unclassified function area 30 (12%) 0 (0%) 2 (9%) $4.0 (22%) Unclassified outside area 20 (7%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified structural area 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.4 (2%) Lawn, field or open area 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Interior stairway 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified area of origin 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Bedroom 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Dining room 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.3 (2%) Lobby or entrance way 10 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (0%) Other known area 50 (21%) 0 (0%) 1 (5%) $1.1 (6%) Total fires 230 (100%) 6 (100%) 22 (100%) $18.3 (100%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. All confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA survey. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 14 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

24 Home Structure Fires in which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lighting with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition Holiday or decorative line-voltage lighting was involved in an average of 150 home structure fires per year. During , decorative lights with line voltage or holiday lights were the equipment involved in an estimated average of 150 reported home structure fires per year. (Homes include one- and two-family homes, row houses, townhouses, apartments, and manufactured housing.) These decorative lighting home structure fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. 9 These fires are identified by NFIRS equipment involved in ignition code 242, Decorative lights, line voltage. Includes holiday lighting, Christmas lights. The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS 5.0) requires minimal information on certain types of confined structure fires, e.g., confined cooking, chimney, fuel burner/boiler, or trash fires. None of these confined fires (incident type ) were reported in this period with holiday or decorative line-voltage lighting as the equipment involved in ignition. Low voltage decorative or landscape lighting was involved in an average of 50 home structure fires per year. Equipment involved in ignition code 243 is used to identify decorative or landscape lighting with low voltage. Low voltage decorative or landscaping lighting was involved in an average of 50 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an average of one civilian injury and $1.8 million in direct property damage per year. No deaths were reported. This category of lighting equipment is involved in far fewer structure fires than the holiday or decorative linevoltage lighting group and only part of the category includes decorative lighting. For these reasons, low-voltage lighting is excluded from the remainder of this analysis. Half the line-voltage holiday or decorative lighting fires occurred in December and January. Figure 5 shows that two out of five (40%) of these fires were reported in December and 12% occurred in January. Figure 6 shows that these fires peak between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. One-quarter of these fires were confined to the object of origin. Table 8 shows that in 28% of these fires, flame damage was confined to the object of origin. Flame damage was confined to the room of origin in a total of 59% of these incidents. Because decorative lighting may be used on the home s exterior or extend through multiple rooms, normal divisions of fire spread may not apply as directly for some areas of fire origin. 9 These statistics include a proportional share of fires in which the equipment involved in ignition was unreported, undetermined, or coded as none without a heat source code indicating a non-equipment heat source, as well as a proportional share of fires involving unknown-type electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Please refer to the Appendix for a detailed description of the methodology used. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 15 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

25 50% Figure 5. Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lights with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition by Month: % 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 12% 4% 7% 7% 5% 6% 2% 4% 2% 5% 7% Source: NFIRS and NFPA Survey Figure 6. Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lights with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition by Time of Alarm: % 23% 20% 15% 10% 12% 6% 9% 14% 13% 11% 12% 5% 0% Source: NFIRS and NFPA Survey Electrical problems were factors in nearly two-thirds of these fires. Table 9 shows that only 1% of the reported home structure fires involving holiday or decorative lights were intentionally set. Table 10 shows that some type of electrical failure or malfunction was a factor in nearly two-thirds (64%) of these incidents. Nineteen percent were caused by a combustible too close to the lighting. 15% of these fires began with Christmas trees. Table 11 and Figure 7 show that Christmas trees were the item first ignited in nearly one of every six home structure fires involving holiday lights or decorative lights with line voltage. Wire or cable insulation was first ignited in 13%, 11% began with decorations and in 6% each, exterior wall covering or structural member or framing was first ignited. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 16 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

26 Figure 7. Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lights with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition, by Item First Ignited: Christmas tree 15% Wire or cable insulation 13% Decoration 11% Exterior wall covering Structural member or framing Light vegetation including grass Curtain or drape 6% 6% 5% 5% Source: NFIRS and NFPA Survey 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% One-third of these fires originated in the living room, family room or den. Table 12 shows that one-third (31%) of the home structure fires involving holiday lights or other decorative lighting with line voltage started in the living room, family room, or den; 8% began in a bedroom; 8% started on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch; 6% began in an unclassified function area; 5% started in an unclassified structural area; and 5% started in an unclassified outside area. CPSC has recalled several sets of holiday lights. Over the years, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a number of recalls for holiday lights due to fire and shock hazards. Details may be found by searching for Lights (seasonal) at Study found that roughly 5,800 people per year were treated at hospital emergency rooms for falls associated with holiday decorations. In a study of fall-related injuries during the holiday season, Stevens and Vajani estimated that an average of roughly 5,800 fall injuries related to holiday decorating were treated at hospital emergency rooms between November 1 and January 31 in , , and Sixty-two percent of those injured were between 20 and 49 years of age, compared to 43% of the population in this age group. Roughly 43% of the injuries resulted from falls from ladders, 13% involved falls from the roof, and 11% involved falls from furniture. 10 J.A. Stevens and M Vajami. Fall-Related Injuries During the Holiday Season -- United States, , MMWR Weekly, December 10, 2004, 53(48); , online at Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 17 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

27 Safety Tips Buy lights with the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Use the correct light for indoor, outdoor, or indoor/outdoor use. Never use electric lights on a metal tree. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use holiday lights. Lights with worn, damaged or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used. Connect no more than three strands of miniature string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read the manufacturer s instructions for the number of light emitting diode (LED) strands to connect. Always unplug and/or switch off holiday lights before leaving home or going to sleep. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays. Lights are for temporary seasonal use, up to 90 days. When using a ladder to hang holiday lights, be sure it is secured on level ground. Never stand on the top three rungs of the ladder. When placed up against a roof, a ladder should reach at least three feet above the roof s edge. Move the ladder to make your reach easier Use a wood or fiberglass ladder when a ladder must be used outdoors. Keep ladders at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 18 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

28 Table 8. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lighting with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition by Extent of Flame Damage Annual Averages Fire Spread Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Confined to object of origin 40 (28%) 0 (0%) 1 (7%) $0.1 (2%) Confined to room of origin 50 (31%) 0 (0%) 7 (44%) $1.4 (17%) Confined to floor of origin 10 (10%) 0 (0%) 1 (7%) $0.4 (4%) Confined to building of origin 50 (30%) 9 (100%) 7 (41%) $5.7 (68%) Beyond building of origin 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.7 (9%) Total 150 (100%) 9 (100%) 16 (100%) $8.4 (100%) Table 9. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Holiday Lights or Other Decorative Lighting with Line Voltage Were Involved in Ignition, by Cause Annual Averages Cause Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Unintentional 80 (56%) 4 (46%) 5 (29%) $5.3 (63%) Failure of equipment or heat source 70 (43%) 5 (54%) 12 (71%) $3.1 (37%) Intentional 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (1%) Total 150 (100%) 9 (100%) 16 (100%) $8.4 (100%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA survey. Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights, 11/13 19 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA

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