’Like throwing gasoline on the walls’

Sierra Rains
Dried-out Christmas trees can become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

While some like to keep their festive decorations up well past the Christmas holiday, leaving up real Christmas trees long into January can become a potentially dangerous fire hazard.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 29% of home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January— and while Christmas tree fires are not entirely common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious.

“All Christmas trees can burn, but a dried-out tree can become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds,” said NFPA vice president of outreach and advocacy Lorraine Carli. “In recent years, we’ve seen tragic incidents where Christmas tree fires have resulted in deadly consequences for multiple family members, including young children.”

Compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires, one out of every 52 home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. Ardmore Fire Department Fire Marshall Tim Lee said natural Christmas trees often become very dry by January.

“They’ll become really dry and the little needles will fall off and you’ll start seeing them fall off, they get real brittle,” Lee said. “They become an extreme fire hazard — it’s like throwing gasoline on the walls, they burn that fast.”

The majority of Christmas tree fires are sparked by extension cords or lighting equipment, Lee said. According to NFPA, electrical distribution or lighting equipment is involved in more than two of every five, or 44% of Christmas tree fires.

Christmas tree fires haven’t been too much of a problem in the local Ardmore area, Lee said. However, when they have happened, they have been devastating, with entire houses lost to Christmas tree fires in the past.

“I have made some calls in my career where Christmas trees were the cause of the fire,” Lee said. “I’ve made a couple on Christmas Eve where they burnt the house up because of the Christmas tree. It’s terrible.”

The NFPA recommends using local recycling programs to dispose of natural Christmas trees. Lee said individuals in the Ardmore area can take trees to the Operation Pride Drop Off Center, located at 317 Veterans Blvd NE, to be disposed of. “That’s a good place to take them — Operation Pride. They re-mulch them and use them for compost.”

The Drop Off Center is open from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Individuals must have a copy of their water bill and driver’s license for verification purposes.

“It’s amazing how big of a fire they can make. I love natural Christmas trees but they’re just very dangerous,” Lee said. “They create more chance of a fire so we like to get rid of them as soon as we can.”