Fire Marshal’s Office and Efficiency Maine Give Christmas Tree Lighting Safety Tips

Augusta, ME, December 06, 2007 --( The State Fire Marshal's Office, the Maine Christmas Tree Association and Efficiency Maine, a Program of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, has teamed up to offer Christmas Tree lighting safety advice for the holiday season.

Christmas trees can add to the spirit of Christmas by filling one’s home with beauty and the scent of pine, but according to the National Safety Council, they can also pose a fire hazard. According to the council, more than 400 residential fires each year involve Christmas trees and tragically nearly 40 deaths and 100 injuries result from those fires.

The fires result from dried out, non-watered trees, wrapping paper or ornaments being ignited by electrical malfunctions, outlet overload, frayed decoration light wires, real candles, and over heated bulbs.

Tree fires are especially dangerous because the flames tend to grow large very quickly. This was demonstrated when the State Fire Marshall's office and the Augusta Fire Brigade, simulated a Christmas tree fire. A fully decorated tree that had not been watered for a week, took under a minute to be fully ablaze.

However there was also good news at today’s Christmas tree lighting from Richard Taylor, Senior Research and Planning Analyst Maine Fire Marshall’s Office.

He said holiday fire incidents have been declining steadily for 25 years with the now available holiday LED lights being another step on the road to improved safety.

"LED lights are a great option for consumers who want to enjoy the holiday season and be as safe as possible," he said. “We have come a long way toward improving fire safety at the holidays, and it's products like these that will keep us moving in that direction."

Maine Public Utilities Chairman Kurt Adams said Efficiency Maine was making it easier and more affordable for people to buy LED holiday lights by working with retail partners offering in-store coupons. These coupons are valid until December 24th and are for a $1.50 off a string of LED holiday lights with a maximum of four strings per customer.

“Not only are the LED lights cheaper to buy because of the coupons, but they are also safer as they produce very little heat, their epoxy lenses are virtually indestructible, and they are also more energy efficient,” he said.

Maine Christmas Tree Association Director Jim Corliss said to prevent fires, Christmas trees have to be kept watered and fresh.

“A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter. Watering the tree is important because it prevents the needles from drying and dropping off and the boughs from drooping. Water also keeps the tree fragrant,” he said.

“It is extremely important to place the tree in water as soon as possible – no more than two or three hours - otherwise it will seal itself and another cut will have to be made.”

Other holiday lighting and Christmas tree safety tips:
• If you are using incandescent holiday lights replace them if they are more than three years old or have been used outside.
• Replace incandescent holiday lights that have worn light fixtures or sockets.
• Purchase lights that have a UL rating, which means they have been tested in a registered laboratory (UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories - a private research firm that classifies and determines the safety of various materials and products).
• Don't use nails or staples to hang holiday lights on your tree.
• Unplug holiday lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
• Use lights labeled as "outdoor" for decorating outside, and "indoor" for inside the home.
• Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord.
• Never place lighted candles on a tree or near any flammable materials.
• Select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needles of pines and spruces should bend and not break and it should be hard to pull off the branches.
• Cut off about two inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand as soon as possible. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly.
• Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources.
• If you use an artificial tree, choose one that has been tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.
• See for further Christmas tree safety tips.


For further information contact Pekka Paavonpera on 207 775 5227 or 1 631 680 7685.
Efficiency Maine
Pekka Paavonpera
1 207 775 5227