NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — As festive as a Christmas tree looks in your living room, it can also be a safety hazard. That’s why New Haven Fire Department officials showed just how dangerous real Christmas trees can be.
The setup looked like it could be any living room at the holidays. a couch, heater, rocking chair in the corner, but on and around that Christmas tree are potentially dangerous wires. All it takes is for one to get too hot.
“So that small spark, once it gets going with that wood, combined with any other furnishings, super heats those gases and you will see that entire room ignite,” explained New Haven Fire Chief John Alston.
Which is exactly what we did see in a Thursday morning demonstration by the New Haven Fire Department. Dangerous wiring can be avoided by locking at the packaging on cords and lights you buy. Look for packaging that says “U-L Listed.” That means it’s been tested.
Many of the extension cords that you buy at discount or dollar stores do not have the words indicating they have been tested, so they may contain more narrow, or lower-guage wiring, which overheats more quickly.
“A lot of the time these products are made in China and they use lower-gauge wiring, and that is what actually causes them to fail,” said New Haven Fire Investigation Supervisor Ray Saracco.
When they do fail, all it takes is a minute or two for flames to spread from a tree to a couch, and then the entire room reaches the critical temperature when everything catches fire.
Space heaters, candles, and even holiday cooking all increase the fire danger this time of year, but the biggest change in your home is bringing a wooden fuel source into your living room. Be sure to get a fresh tree, and do not put it near a heater or fireplace. Once that tree is in the house, you have to keep it watered.
“It’s very important to keep those trees watered, to check for loose needles and dry needles because they will burn a lot faster,” Chief Alston said. “It’s almost like throwing gasoline on it.”
There are lots of holidays safety concerns. The Fire Department sent out two full pages, from picking the tree to placing the tree, to lighting the tree.