Live Christmas trees increase house fire danger

SAFD: Dry tree can be fully engulfed in flames in seconds

SAN ANTONIO – According to San Antonio fire Chief Charles Hood, Christmas is a dangerous time of year when it comes to house fires.

"From Dec. 24 through Dec. 26, fire deaths and injuries and dollar loss increase an average of 51 percent," said Hood.

The biggest culprit, he said, is often a Christmas tree.

"Having a Christmas tree in your living room is like having a five-gallon can of gasoline in your living room," said Hood.

To hammer the point home, the San Antonio Fire Department put on a demonstration of a tree catching fire in a simulated living room on the ground of their training academy Thursday.

The tree was fully involved in less than five seconds. In less than 20 seconds, the room was filled with smoke.

"A dry tree may take three seconds to ignite, two seconds to spread to a surrounding area, and just over 40 seconds to flash over, fully involving a room, filling it with deadly heat and toxic smoke," said Hood.

One of the biggest takeaways from the demonstration is that homeowners need to have smoke detectors in their home, they must work.

"The smoke detector (during the demonstration) activated at 18 seconds. So if you are in that house, the best air in that house is on the floor," said Hood.

There are numerous items in the home that can ignite a tree.

"Shorts in electrical lights, open flames, candles, lighters, and matches are usually an ignition source," said Hood.

According to Hood, keeping your tree watered will dramatically reduce the likelihood of it catching fire.

He also preached the use of common sense when it comes to the use of space heaters, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the winter.

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