Christmas tree fires can ruin holiday celebrations

  • Published
  • By Jessie R. Moreno
  • 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services

The Christmas season can be the most joyous of times but also deadly. Approximately 400 fires occur annually that involve Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA.

This results in more than a dozen deaths, injuries, damage, and more than $10 million in property loss. Short-circuiting tree lights are cited as the leading cause.

Joint Base San Antonio Fire Emergency Services officials offer these safety tips for choosing and preparing Christmas trees for decoration that will minimize the risk of fire and injuries.

Picking the tree

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Placing the tree

  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree

  • Use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas

  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.
  • Check with your local community to find a recycling program.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

Fast facts

  • Nearly one of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every four of the fires.

For more information about Christmas tree safety, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at  or contact our Fire Prevention Offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210- 221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921 or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.