In addition to the holidays themselves, many people choose to celebrate the season by decorating their homes with electric lights, candles, banners, and wreaths. The Christmas tree is among the most popular of these decorations. The Bureau of the Census estimates that there were 101,041,000 households in America in 1998. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 33 million natural Christmas trees were sold that same year, which means that nearly one-third of American households had a live or cut Christmas tree inside the home. Each year, newspapers have tragic stories of families killed by fires that are ignited by the family Christmas tree. As the season goes on and trees become drier, the incidence of Christmas tree fires worsens.
In residential structure fires where the ignition point is a Christmas tree or other holiday decoration, the fire is typically more severe in every measurable way. Injuries, fatalities, and property loss are higher than average. This is indicative of the potentially rapid ignition and spread of a tree or decoration fire. One fire official described a dry Christmas tree to a "bomb" in the middle of a home. In reaction to winter's cold weather, most people turn up the heat in their homes, which dries Christmas trees even
Christmas Trees, 2
more. Coupled with faulty wiring or lit candles, a Christmas tree provides sufficient fuel to ignite a serious fire. Two examples:
On January 9, 1999, an electrical short in a string of Christmas lights...