COLUMBIA, Mo. - Christmas trees are one of the most popular decorations to light up a home during the holiday season, but firefighters are warning about their potential fire hazards.
Boone County Fire Protection District officials warn that if the proper precautions are not taken with holiday decor, a Christmas tree can go from dazzling to dangerous in seconds.
Christmas trees cause 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths and an average of more than $10 million in property damage, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Battalion Chief Gale Blomenkamp with Boone County Fire Protection District says real and artificial trees pose equal dangers.
He said the danger starts with the decorations.
"Before you put the lights on, make sure they aren't frayed or bent," Blomenkamp said. "Even the slightest nick can cause it to spark quickly."
Real trees take more maintenance than artificial trees. He said to make sure the tree is very well watered to avoid any fire risk.
ABC 17 News inspected a real tree with Blomenkamp. The tree was well-watered, and a low fire risk, according to Blomenkamp. He cut off a branch, and tried to light it on fire, however, it did not catch.
But if the tree was dry, it would be a different story.
"If this was a dried out piece of Christmas tree, it'd go up in seconds," Blomenkamp said. "An entire tree can actually burn in seconds, and it's very explosive."
He also said the placement of the tree is crucial. It should not be near any exits or heating vents. Lights should also be high off the ground, away from presents or pets.
"People need to realize when they put up Christmas decorations, they are temporary," Blomenkamp said. "It's important they're only up for 90 days or less to minimize risks."