How to Make Your Christmas Tree Flame-retardant and Other Holiday Fire-Safety Tips
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How to Make Your Christmas Tree Flame-retardant and Other Holiday Fire-Safety Tips

How to fire-proof your tree with a solution to water the tree with and other safety tips to prevent Christmas tree fires.

More than 33 million other American homes have a natural tree for the holidays. A properly watered tree will create a fragrant indoor atmosphere. However, dry, under-watered Christmas trees account for 200 fires annually, resulting in 6 deaths, 25 injuries and more than $6 million in property damage. (U.S. Fire Administration) The most common cause for tree fires are shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles. Well-watered trees are not a problem, but the drier the tree is, the more likely it is to catch fire.

Preventing Christmas Tree Fires

• Water, Water, Water

Even living pine trees can catch on fire, as you have seen in the news every year; they are in severely dry regions of the country. Make sure that the base of the tree is always in contact with water and check it daily.

• Selecting a Tree

Needles on freshly cut trees should be green and difficult to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Check for older trees by grasping the top of the tree and bounce it on the ground; if too many needles fall off the tree has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

• Caring for Your Tree

Be careful where you set your tree. Keep it away from hot air vents that can dry out the tree prematurely. Don’t place it near a fireplace. Never smoke near a tree or place lit candles nearby. Don’t put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.

• Disposing of Your Tree

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or a wood burning stove. Remove your tree from the home right after you remove the decorations. Discard it according to your community regulations or ordinances.

Tree Lights

• Maintain Your Lights

Take special care when packing and unpacking your tree lights each year. Inspect the lights prior to each use for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, missing or broken bulbs, and excessive wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

• Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets

Read the manufacturer’s instructions, but link no more than three light strands unless the directions state that you can link more than three. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Check the wires every so often; they should not be warm to the touch.

• Each package of Christmas lights lists how much electrical current the lights require and is listed as either watts or amps. 100 watts is roughly equal to 1 amp; most home receptacle circuits can handle 15 amps of which you should only use 80%, or 12 amps. Most circuits have more than one receptacle on each circuit, so you need to take into consideration anything else you have plugged in to the circuit. How much current your lights require varies depending on how many lights are in the string and what type they are which is why it is important to check the package.

DO NOT leave lights on unattended or overnight.

Use only Nonflammable Decorations.

All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant, and placed away from heat vents.

• Artificial Christmas Trees

If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Recipe for Fire Retardant Christmas Trees

No fire-proofing technique works 100% of the time, but this recipe to make a living tree fire retardant has worked well in the past. Share it with your friends and neighbors. Follow the directions carefully.  This solution comes from various sources, including the U.S. Army Safety Office.


* Two cups of corn syrup

* Two ounces of chlorine bleach

* Two teaspoons of Epsom salt

* One-half teaspoon of Borax

* One teaspoon of chelated iron (Can be found at nurseries, garden centers, and in pill form at pharmacies)

* Hot water


1. Mix all ingredients listed above. Fill a two-gallon bucket with hot water to within one inch of the top and add the ingredients. Stir thoroughly, dissolving ingredients.

2. Make a fresh cut at the base on the tree trunk. Cut an inch off the base of the tree.

3. Immediately stand the trunk of the tree in the solution and leave for 24 hours.

4. Keep the remaining solution. Place your tree in a tree stand that contains a well where liquids can be poured.

5. When the tree is in its final resting place, use a plastic cup to pour solution from the bucket into the tree well. Fill the well.

6. Fill the tree stand well with the solution everyday.

You can cut a piece of a branch off and try to light it outside.

How does it work?

The syrup provides the food necessary to allow the base of the tree to take up water. As much as 1 ½ gallons of water can be taken up by the tree over a two-week period. Boron in the Borax allows the tree to move the water and sugar out to every branch and needle in your tree. Magnesium compounds in the Epsom salt and iron from the chelated iron provide essential components for the production of chlorophyll which will keep the tree green. The bleach prevents mold from forming in your solution. The solution will also help with needle drop and increase the pine fragrance of the tree.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

See my Factoid on Candle Safety –


U. S,. Fire Administration

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Comments (4)
Ranked #1 in Home Safety

The solution is only for cut Christmas trees. You would not need to fire-proof a living tree that has the root system intact.

Ranked #16 in Home Safety

Great article! The best lights to use are LED instead of the traditional incandescent lights. LED lights generate practically no heat and consume very little current so it's almost impossible to overload a branch circuit with them.

Happy Holidays Daniel! Thank you for this article, we were just discussing tree lights and I was wondering are LED lights safe to keep on? They are on an artificial tree, which is flame resistant :). From reading your article there are probably no safe lighting systems to prevent this.

Ranked #1 in Home Safety

As long as the electrical wiring on the lights are not damaged, LED lights are probably the safest since they produce the least amount of heat from the bulbs. Make sure the light set has a UL mark and your receptacle is not overloaded. Happy Holidays!