LARCHMONT — Christmas tree fires tend to be deadlier than others in homes, with almost half caused by malfunction of strings of lights or other lighting equipment.

The Firemen's Association of the State of New York doesn't intend to dim the excitement that comes with the holidays by sharing that message, but wants people to stay safe. 

"Exercise caution and keep fire safety in mind when decorating for the holidays," the organization said in a press release. "When holiday lights and other decorations are not used properly, they can cause fires, injuries, and even death."

The association urges people to view a video of an unwatered Christmas tree when a blaze is sparked within its branches — in about 20 seconds, the timer in the video shows, the tree is almost fully ablaze and flames have spread to adjacent walls and the ceiling in the demonstration facility.

In about 40 seconds, an inferno is swallowing up the room.

“Winter is traditionally the busiest time of the year for home fires," FASNY President Steven Klein said in the release, "and the prevalence of Christmas lights, candles, and other flammable objects means the holidays involve a heightened risk of fire."




Here are tips from FASNY on choosing a Christmas tree:

• Check for dryness while at the seller’s lot — shake the trunk above a light-colored surface and watch for falling needles. If too dry, many needles will fall out.

• Avoid trees with an artificial-looking green tint on the branches or trunk,as they may have been spray-painted to improve their appearance.

• Have the merchant saw off an inch or 2 from the trunk to help keep the tree fresh longer at home. If your tree is left outside, placing the trunk in a bucket of water will help keep it fresh.

•  When disposing of a tree, don't leave it inside a home or building, and don't place it against the exterior of a home or building.



As for holiday decorations and lighting:

• When possible, choose decorations made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials as designated on the product packaging.

• Purchase lights and electrical decorations stamped with the name or symbol of an independent testing lab — for example, “UL”, or Underwriters’ Laboratories — and always follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance.

• Carefully inspect new and previously used light strands. Look for frayed cables and replace any damaged or missing bulbs before plugging lights in.

• Do not overload extension cords, “power strips” and electrical outlets.

• When using power cords to illuminate outdoor displays, ensure that they are designated for external or outdoor use only. 

• Turn lights off overnight. If possible, use a timer device to turn your lights off automatically. This not only lessens the risk of fire but saves on energy bills as well.




Home cooking equipment fires are 55 percent higher on Christmas Eve and 68 percent higher on Christmas Day, so here are more tips:

• Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food.

• Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove top and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time.

• If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

• For homes with children, create a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.



See the burning tree video, provided by the National Fire Protection Association and produced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, at: