Christmas tree fire danger especially high after dry fall

Warm weather dries out trees quicker
Posted at 8:16 AM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-20 12:02:43-05

This year, more than in previous years, the danger of Christmas tree fires is especially high. Months of warm, dry weather has created conditions that can take all the moisture out of a tree quickly.

"We've had Santa Ana after Santa Ana after Santa Ana," said Stephen Moran with the San Miguel Fire Department. "Relative humidity has been so low, it just sucks the moisture out of these live cut trees."

It's been over 200 days since San Diego saw any significant rainfall. The dry weather makes conditions especially dangerous this year.

The SMFD posted this video showing how fast a dry tree can burn. In less than 10 seconds, the entire tree is on fire. In about 30 seconds, the fire has spread throughout the room, burning everything in sight.

"Last year we had a very wet December and trees did very well," said Moran. "This year, within three days of putting up a tree, it can be completely dry."

Fire officials say the best way to decrease the danger is to keep the tree watered, and refill the water bowl at the base every day.

There's also a simple test you can do to tell if your tree is too dry. Firefighters say you should grab a branch and gently pull towards yourself. If a lot of pine needles fall off as you pull, the tree is dry and should be replaced. Brown needles and branches that snap easily means the tree is dead and must be taken out of the house.

"That's a point of no return for that tree. That's a big, dead, dry plan waiting for an ignition," said Moran.

Moran also says to check lights on the tree. If the insulation around the wires is frayed or cracked, or if the wires are exposed, that can lead to a fire.

Tree owners should also unplug the lights overnight or any time they leave the house. And keep the tree away from any heating vents.