Fire Marshal Urges Caution with Christmas Trees

Nashville, TN (2018-12-08) Opinions may differ on when to start decorating for the holidays, but one thing is- certain: Practicing fire safety during the holidays can drastically reduce the likelihood of a home fire. To raise awareness of fire-safe behaviors this holiday season, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is asking Tennesseans to be cautious when it comes to selecting, decorating, and maintaining Christmas trees.

While fire departments only respond to an average of 200 Christmas tree fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), those fires are far more deadly than other home fires. NFPA data shows that one of every 32 reported home fires caused by Christmas trees resulted in a death. This compares to one death per 143 reported home fires resulting from other causes.

“Christmas trees are a staple for many Tennesseans celebrating the holidays each year, but those festivities can turn deadly if a blaze starts because of a Christmas tree,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “We urge consumers to practice fire-safe behavior to ensure their holidays are festive and safe,” she added.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office shares the following tips to help Tennesseans reduce their risk of Christmas tree fires:


  • If you choose an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled and certified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
  • If you choose a live tree, select one with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • A good test of a tree’s age is bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If needles fall off, the tree has been cut to long, has dried out, and could be a fire hazard.


  • Before placing a live tree, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure any tree is displayed at least three feet away from any heat source. Fireplaces, radiators, candles, and even heat vents can cause a live tree to dry out, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flames, or sparks.
  • If using a live tree, do not leave it up longer than two weeks.
  • Make sure trees and other decorations aren’t blocking exits.
  • Add water to your tree stand daily.


  • Use lights that have been tested by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Ensure you are using the proper lights. Some are for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Replace any string lights with worn or broken cords. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree.
  • Always turn off decorative lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Keep all heat sources at least three feet away from a tree.


  • Get rid of your live tree when it starts dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.
  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.

For more information on making your home fire safe, visit