A staged Christmas tree fire set by engineers showed the dangers of having an unwatered tree for weeks or leaving the lights on at night. The holidays are upon us, and millions of households will have a freshly cut pine tree or trees beautifully decorated to celebrate Christmas.
On Tuesday, experts from the Fire, Protection Engineering Laboratory at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts along with city firefighters gathered for a little experiment. The engineers set a mock living room, with a sofa, curtains, and a beautiful Christmas tree that was not watered for three weeks.
The goal was to recreate the conditions that often occur after “people decorate their homes” for the holiday season. Raymond Ranellone, director of the Fire Protection Engineering Laboratory, and his team set the tree on fire and watched an intense chain reaction.
The lower branches burned out, followed by the sofa, and quickly the entire room was set ablaze. In a matter of seconds, 63 to be exact, the fake room was nothing more than a fireball. Ranellone said:
“This truly was alarming, truly surprising for us to see us going from an ignition all the way to a flashover in this compartment in just 63 seconds. And when we start to think about what 63 seconds means — that’s how much time we need to get out of the house, to alert the fire department and get the fire department to our houses. Sixty-three seconds is just not a lot of time.”
“This has only been one minute since time of ignition and we’re seeing that the carpet has now ignited and that’s an indication of what we call flashover, where the room has gone from local burning at the tree to complete room involvement. So in your home, that’d be your entire living room on fire in just over one minute.”
According to experts at the National Fire Protection Association, between 2009 and 2013, there were 210 house fires, which were responsible for the deaths of seven people. Those fires left 19 others with serious injuries and caused $17.5 million in property damage.
To avoid Christmas fires, water the tree regularly, and turn off the lights at night.