According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Christmas trees account for 240 fires annually, resulting in 13 deaths and more than $16.7 million in property damage.”  Fire, death and damage from a holiday decoration is highly preventable.

Many families set up a fresh pine christmas-tree in their home as a Christmas decoration. Family, friends and neighbors oftentimes make a fun day of adding lights, decorations, shiny strands of tinsel and garland all while listening to holiday music and eating and drinking. The scent of a Christmas tree along with beautiful decorations evokes many a childhood memory. Almost all of the memories are good ones – except if you, someone in your family  or a friend was one of the unlucky ones to be included in the 240 annual fire victims.

Keeping your home and family safe is always important, but with the addition of a highly flammable christmas-tree in your home, safety and vigilance becomes twice as important. There are a few steps you can take to ensure a safe holiday season.

Watering a Christmas Tree is Important

Buy a Christmas christmas-tree stand with a large water reservoir and keep it filled. Keeping a Christmas tree well watered is one of the most important steps to prevent a fire you can take – although it’s just half of what is required.

Check the water level at least once a day. Depending on the christmas-tree, you may need to add water to the base more than once a day.

Based on a test performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a tree that water levels have been consistently maintained were unlikely to burn even when subjected to the flame from a match or  electric current. A propane torch was able to briefly light a christmas-tree branch, but the fire was not sustained and quickly burnt out. – Do not attempt inside the home, this test was performed in a controlled laboratory. –

Watering is important, but not all trees will continue to absorb water and will still dry out regardless of how much water you add to the christmas-tree stand’s reservoir.  Many tree cutters cut Christmas trees weeks before anticipated sales which leads to dry branches, trunks and needles. Do not be lulled into a false sense of safety and security by assuming that if you water your christmas-tree several times a day, your tree will not burn – it will. The longer your christmas-tree has been cut, the drier it will be.

Homemade Fire Retardant Spray

Place the Christmas tree into the stand and fill the reservoir fully.

Cover your work space under the tree with plastic sheeting or a thick layer of newspaper. Hang plastic sheeting to protect the walls and lay it over nearby furniture to protect the area from fire retardant spray.

Let the tree remain in stand for an hour or so to allow the branches to fall.

Fill a bucket with 1 gallon of warm water and add 1 pound of boric acid. Boric acid is readily available at most pharmacies and some supermarkets.

Stir the ingredients with a wood stir stick until the boric acid has dissolved fully.

Pour the fire retardant spray into a pump sprayer or a large spray bottle.

Spray the Christmas tree beginning at the top and working your way down toward the bottom. Spray the branches from the trunk outward including both the top and underside of the branches. Spray the trunk of the tree.

Let the fire retardant tree spray dry until it is no longer glistening.

Apply a second coating of the fire retardant spray employing the same technique as you did when you applied the first treatment.

Let the Christmas tree dry a second time until it is fully dry before adding lights, decorations, tinsel and garland.

Commercially Available Fire Retardant Spray

Many home improvement stores and online retailers sell fire retardant sprays which are more expensive than a homemade spray, but are highly effective.

Keep in mind before purchasing a commercially available fire retardant spray – avoid any preparation containing any type of salts. While salts are effective in preventing fires, they are not the best choice for trees because the salts pull moisture from the tree making it dry out faster, become more brittle and increase the likelihood of combustion.

Commercially available sprays are available as a ready to use preparation of as a powder that mixes with water to become a liquid spray. If you purchase the powder or concentrated version of the product, carefully following mixing directions when preparing to protect the tree.

Set the Christmas tree in the stand and fill the water reservoir as high as possible with water.

Place a thick layer of newspaper or plastic sheeting on the floor under the tree.

Protect walls and nearby furniture with plastic sheeting or tarps.

Begin at the top of the Christmas-tree and spray the branches – top and bottom -- working from the trunk out to the tips of the branches until the entire tree is fully coated with the spray.

Let the spray dry before adding lights, decorations, garland and tinsel.

Holiday Safety Tips

Checks all light cords – dispose of any with exposed or frayed wires. Electrical fires account for one-third of all Christmas-tree fires.

Set the Christmas tree 3 feet or more away from radiators, heat vents or lights, at least four to six feet or more from candles, fireplaces, pilot lights and space heaters.

Block curious children and pets from access to the tree. Accidentally knocking the tree over can cause the tree to fall onto a lit candle or fireplace or end up too close to a heat source.

Keep your tree well watered.

Choose a tree free of brown needles. Bend a branch, if the branch snaps the tree is dry to begin with. If the branch bends and flexes it is fresh and typically not dry.

Locate a smoke alarm near the tree in case of accidental combustion. Make sure the batteries are fresh and operational.

Spray the tree with a fire retardant to keep your family and friends safe throughout the holiday season.

Remember fire retardant does not mean fireproof.

Consider An Alternative

A fire retardant faux Christmas Tree is a very safe option. The trees look very realistic and not at all like their older counterparts. There are many fake Christmas Trees that you actually have to feel in order to determine its authenticity. Many trees come prelit and ready to put up.