The dangers of real Christmas trees

SMOKE PLOOMS as tree lights on fire in living room (Photo via

By Nathan Melcher  | Computer Design Editor

January 8, 2020

You wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of your smoke alarm chirping. You run into the family room to see your Christmas tree in a fiery ball, with flames running across the ceiling.

With everything going on this year, people are buying their trees earlier than normal. Buying trees early comes with a downside, trees don’t last forever. They dry up and get old, becoming a fire hazard. This year, there were at least 200 Christmas trees that caught on fire.

A man in La Palma, California, learned this the hard way when his Christmas tree lit on fire at approximately 2 AM on January 4th. The man woke up to the sound of a smoke detector, walked into his living room, and found his Christmas tree fully engulfed in flames. The fire quickly spread to the rest of his house.

ON SCENE of house fire at 2 AM started by dry Christmas tree (via Orange County Fire Authority Public Information Officers’ Twitter [OCFA_PIO])
This shows how important it is to dispose of real Christmas trees as soon as the holiday season has concluded. Though, looping back around, it never really felt like the holiday season to begin with, so how can you put an end to it. 

Many students opted to get their trees early this year in order to try and promote the Christmas spirit. “We were ready to get into the holiday season,” junior Zane Pert said. “So we got our tree early this year to try and help promote the feeling of Christmas.” This results in trees getting dryer, quicker, and can result in larger fire hazards than in years past. 

Trees can light on fire from a number of factors: loose electrical wires on lights, a heater blowing directly on the tree, trees placed near a fireplace, or trees falling over due to lack of structural support. Loose light cords are by far the largest factor that can result in approximately 100 fires per year in the United States. When lights get loose or are frayed in any way, the electricity can jump from the wires to the tree, igniting the tree.

Due to the dry and open nature of the old Christmas tree, it is the perfect conditions for a fire. The dry tree is a perfect fuel source and the tree being so open leads to a large amount of oxygen being able to help support the fire. These factors contribute to a small spark from a light cord to a fully engulfed tree in a matter of seconds. After the tree has become fully consumed by the fire, it easily spreads to the rest of the house in minutes. 

REMOVE TREES as soon as your are done with them (via Orange County Fire Authority Public Information Officers’ Twitter [OCFA_PIO])
Since these fires spread so quickly and without any signs of impending danger, they are very dangerous for those out of their homes for the night or are sleeping at the time. In the recent fire in La Palma, the man thankfully had working smoke detectors that alerted him to the fire before it was too late. Now with many people being home more than ever, it is very important to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to help alert residents to an issue elsewhere in the house.

The Orange County Fire Authority strongly encourages the following from residents in order to keep them safe :

  • Have working smoke alarm
  • Remove your natural Christmas trees from your home after Christmas
  • Have an exit plan and once you’re out, stay out 

These important tips can help save lives and protect structures. 

If you still have a real Christmas tree in your home, please consider removing it to help protect your home and your family. 

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