Christmas Trees Festive, Dangerous
Posted December 23, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — Most families who celebrate Christmas have a colorful, festive tree in their house. They can be beautiful, but they also can be dangerous.
Last year, Christmas trees sparked 255 fires in North Carolina. House fires are 14 percent more likely to happen during the holidays and 30 percent more likely to result in deaths.
But, with all the hustle and bustle, it's easy to forget to turn off the lights or water the tree.
Christmas is only a few hours away, yet you can still find people shopping for Christmas trees. Shoppers are not just looking for bargains. They want a fresh tree.
A lot of Christmas trees were purchased just weeks ago, and they have already dried out. A Christmas tree here at WRAL had been sitting in our newsroom lobby for just over a month. It was watered regularly to keep from drying out.
However, when Holly Springs firefighter Thad Shearin set fire to it, it took about two minutes for the tree to become completely engulfed in flames.
Shearin says the fire can spread even faster if it's inside a house surrounded by gifts and other flammable items. He also says many people overload their trees with lights. That could also lead to a deadly fire.
"If your going to be gone for extended periods of time, cut the lights off. Don't leave them burning. I know it looks pretty in the window, but pretty things can sometimes cause the biggest messes."
Shearin says that in his three years at the fire department, he has never seen a fire started by a Christmas tree. He attributes that to an aggressive public awareness campaign. However, it takes only one bad decision to turn the holidays tragic.