Preventing Christmas tree fires can stop millions in property damage every year

Christmas trees are great, but not burning down the house is better.

When it comes to holiday decorations, Christmas trees are a must for many. But while the sight of a fully decorated tree may inspire joy, these trees can pose a significant fire threat if they’re not properly maintained.

Firefighters respond to an average of 160 home fires a year stemming from Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires reportedly cause $10 million in property damage, and cause an average of 14 injuries and two deaths each year.

Fox News spoke with Robert Verhelst, a fireman with 21 years of experience and a motivational speaker based out of Wisconsin, about how to prevent Christmas tree fires.

RELATED: 20% Americans have reportedly gotten hurt while setting up Christmas trees in 2020: Survey

One of the most important things to think about, Verhelst said, is tree placement. While there may be a corner of the house where the tree looks perfect, that may not be the best spot to place it. Verhelst says it’s important to keep trees away from heat sources, such as vents or fireplaces.

He also recommends either plugging a tree directly into an outlet or into a surge protector, stressing that extension cords are not meant to be permanent solutions, and should only be used on a temporary basis.

Verhelst adds that only one surge protector should be plugged into each outlet, and should never be daisy-chained.

RELATED: Here are the USPS deadlines to get a package to arrive by Christmas

Putting up an artificial tree this year? That doesn’t mean you're any safer from potential fires, as plastic is still flammable. In fact, according to Verhelst, a fresh tree that is properly hydrated is less likely to burn, because the wood inside the tree will still be wet. But watch out for shedding needles and brown spots, which are warning signs of a dry tree.

Officials in New Jersey posted a dramatic video on December 19 showing how quickly dry Christmas trees burst into flames as they warned of the fire danger posed by trees that are not watered. (Credit: @ReadyNJ via Storyful)

Other potential problems include lights that blink (unless they're supposed to) and any strings of lights with frayed wires.

Lastly, Verhelst says it’s a good idea to turn the lights off at night. Sure, it might be nice to fall asleep with the glow of the tree still shining through the house, but if something happens while everyone is asleep, no one may notice a problem until it’s too late.

Get updates on this story from