Holiday nightmare: How to avoid deadly Christmas tree fires

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kajakiki/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Christmas trees can be deadly.

That’s the urgent advisory from consumer safety experts who warn that it only takes a small ignition source to set a festive home ablaze.

A tree without enough water is essentially flammable kindling, fueling what can become a devastating catastrophe.

Several people die from tree fires each year, according to newly-released data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which looked at rates between 2013 and 2015.

Most holiday lights won’t get hot enough to set a tree on fire. But frayed wires and broken bulbs can spark a flame. Outdoor holiday lights have been known to cause shrub fires and should only be purchased from certified manufacturers, the CPSC says.

Watering a tree regularly can keep a small fire from spreading. In a demonstration by the CPSC Thursday, a dry tree quickly became engulfed in flames while the watered tree barely caught fire under the same conditions.

“Even after Christmas, keep it well watered until you drag it to the curb,” acting CPSC Chairwoman Anne Marie Buerkle told ABC News.

In addition to watering, the CPSC offers these tips to help avoid a holiday tragedy:


1) Check lights for broken or cracked sockets.

2) Don’t put candles on unstable surfaces like couches or pillows.

3) Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly.

4) Keep the tree away from any heat source.

Thousands of people injure themselves every year while decorating for the holidays, according to the CPSC.

“All of these injuries are preventable,” Buerkle said.

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