December 13, 2012
Albemarle County Fire and Rescue demonstrated Thursday afternoon how quickly a dry Christmas tree can burst into flames and burn an entire living room.
They built a living room in the parking lot, and filled it with furniture and Christmas decorations. Then a firefighter lit the tree.
For the first minute, smoke swirled above the tree. Then, in a matter of seconds, flames consumed the entire tree.
A minute later, the fire reached the furniture and the TV exploded. That caused the entire room to become a ball of fire.
Eli Jones, with ACFR, put on the demonstration to convince people that they don't have much time to get out of the house, once a fire is burning.
"If you ask the average person," said Jones, "they'll tell you, 'I've got five to eight minutes to get out of the house.' In actuality, three minutes is about the maximum."
But the better tactic is to not let a fire start in the first place. The first step is making sure your tree has plenty to drink. Jones says you should ask the tree salesman to cut off the bottom two inches of the trunk of your tree, then give it lots of water.
"They should place it in a bucket of water overnight," said Jones. "That tree will absorb roughly a gallon of water."
When you are decorating the tree, don't overload the electrical outlet, and make sure your lights aren't frayed or sitting against flammable ornaments.
"It could get started from an electrical short," said Jones. "Or the decorations on there, if the bulbs are too close to decorations on the tree."
Jones says it is also important to have an exit plan.