CINCINNATI — With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, the end of year holidays are right around the corner. As holiday decorating gets into full swing, many will be opting for a live Christmas tree as part of their celebrations. While artificial trees have continued to grow in popularity, there are still about 25 to 30 million live Christmas trees sold every year in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
AAA urges everyone to prioritize safety when transporting a Christmas tree and preventing it from becoming a fire hazard. While home fires can happen at any time, they generally increase during the fall and winter, with December and January being the peak months.
“If not properly secured, a tree can cause vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals, distorted window frames, or even worse, it could fly off the vehicle Kara Hitchens, AAA public and government affairs manager. “In addition to safely transporting a Christmas tree, we urge those displaying live trees in their homes for the holidays to do so properly and remember to watch the tree daily to avoid having it dry out and become a fire hazard.”
Tie One On, Properly
One holiday staple―the Christmas tree―has been popping up on top of cars and in windows earlier than in pre-pandemic years, extending the amount of time a tree is in the house for the holiday. However, this extended display time increases the potential for live Christmas trees to become fire hazards.
According to AAA research:
– 44 percent of Americans who plan to purchase a real Christmas tree will transport the tree using unsafe methods.
– 20 percent will tie the tree to the roof of their vehicle without using a roof rack.
– 24 percent plan to place the tree in the bed of their pickup truck unsecured.
– Among those planning to purchase a live Christmas tree this year, 16 percent have previously experienced a Christmas tree falling off or out of their vehicle during transport.
– An improperly secured Christmas tree can cost drivers as much as $1,500 or more in repairs.
– Previous research from AAA found that road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.
“Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious vehicle damage, such as scratched paint, torn door seals and distorted window frames―damage that could cost up to $1,500 or more to repair,” said Hitchens. “Worse yet, improperly securing a Christmas tree to your vehicle could present a serious road danger if it comes loose and flies off into traffic.”
AAA notes that transporting a real Christmas tree is easy as long as you have the tools and follow these simple tips:
Use the right vehicle. It’s best to transport a Christmas tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack. However, if you do not have a roof rack, use the bed of a pickup truck or an SUV, van or minivan that can fit the tree inside with all doors closed.
Bring proper tools. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle’s roof rack. Avoid the lightweight twine offered by many tree lots. Bring an old blanket and gloves.
Protect the tree―and your vehicle. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine. Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish.
Point the tree trunk towards the front. Always place the tree on a roof rack or in a pickup bed with the bottom of the trunk facing the front of the vehicle.
Tie it down. Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top. At the bottom, use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop around the trunk above a lower branch, to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement. The center and top tie-downs should be installed in a similar manner.
Give it the tug test. Before you leave the lot, give the tree several strong tugs from various directions to make sure it is secured in place and will not blow away.
Drive slowly and easily. Take the back roads, if possible. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage your Christmas tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.
Once the Christmas tree reaches its holiday home safely, proper placement and decorations are key to prevent a devastating house fire. The National Fire Protection Association reports that:
– Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in more than two in five home Christmas tree fires.
– Nearly one in five Christmas tree fires were started by lamps or bulbs. Six percent were started by candles.
– Roughly two of every five home Christmas tree fires started in the living room.
– Candle fires peak in December and January with 11 percent of candle fires in each of these months.
– Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
– Year round, more than one-third (35 percent) of home decoration fires were started by candles. This jumped to almost half in December when candles started 45 percent of such fires. Cooking started one-fifth (19%) of decoration fires.
– U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of one civilian fire death, 26 civilian fire injuries and $13 million in direct property damage.
Make sure the fireplace is all that gets “lit”
AAA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offer the following tips to reduce the risk of a house fire this Christmas:
– Make sure the Christmas tree is at least three feet away from any heat source (fireplace, radiator, candles, heat vents, or lights).
– Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
– Add water to your tree daily.
– Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Never use lit candles to light the tree.
– Always turn off the lights on the tree before going to bed or leaving home.
“No one wants to have their holiday ruined―or face a tragedy―because of a house fire that could have been prevented,” said Hitchens. “While you may look at your tree as the centerpiece of your holiday decorations, you must treat it as a potential fire danger and take steps to protect your family and your home.”