MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It’s pretty and it smells good, but Christmas trees can be extremely dangerous. Whether you have a real Christmas tree or an artificial tree, both can catch fire, but a real tree will burn faster.
The American Christmas Tree Association says that 83-percent of U.S. households will use fake Christmas trees this year. In 2011, only 79-percent used fake trees. The number of people sticking to tradition and using real trees for Christmas dropped this year to only 23-percent. Most people say it’s more convenient. Fire officials say it could be safer.
Brent Perkins, Public Information Officer for the Shelby County Fire Department, says, “A natural tree is a wonderful tree to have. If you're going to take the responsibility of having a natural tree in your house, then you really need to take the precautions to keep it watered.”
Real Christmas trees are fairly safe when they are properly hydrated. When they dry out, the natural oils in the needles are very combustible. Place Christmas trees away from heat sources like candles, heaters, and the fireplace.
When a dried out Christmas tree catches fire, the entire room can be engulfed in flames in a matter of minutes.
“When they go up they hit very high temperatures at alarming rates of speed. The temperature in that room goes from a nice pleasant 70 degrees to about 1000 degrees in a couple of minutes,” says Perkins.
Artificial trees are not immune from fire. They can catch on fire, but you may have more time to put out the fire and/or escape before the room is engulfed.
“From the job and what I've seen, an artificial tree burns a lot slower. It's going to take a longer time to start an artificial tree on fire,” says Perkins.
Perkins does not recommend one type of tree over the other and says in either case you should have a fire emergency plan and working smoke detectors in your home.