Up in flames: Officials warn about the dangers of Christmas tree fires

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New Jersey fire officials held a demonstration Thursday to remind people how quickly a Christmas tree can burst into flames if homeowners do not take the proper precautions.

“Within 55 seconds, you are over 1,000 degrees,” says Dave Kurasz, with the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.

Officials say that homes with fire-suppressing sprinkler systems can help put out a fire before it turns tragic. The demonstration featured two rooms – one with a sprinkler and one without. The room with the sprinkler showed almost no damage when a fire broke out.

“This has been a huge, huge deal for the New Jersey Fire Commission,” Kurasz says.

Experts say that Christmas trees should be watered every day to keep them from becoming too dry. Homeowners should also be careful not to overload electrical outlets or use Christmas lights that are old or frayed.

“We don't have dead trees in our house most of the year. This one time of the year, we are very busy. Sometimes we use old lights. Sometimes we have sources of ignition, like fireplaces, and it can lead to tragedy. It doesn't have to be that way,” says former state Assemblyman John Wisniewski 

Homeowners are also reminded to keep the doors shut in surrounding rooms because a shut door can help slow the spread of a fire and can add valuable minutes for fire crews to make a rescue if the people can't get out on their own.

Officials say that between 2012 and 2016, there were about 170 Christmas tree fires each year nationally. Of those fires, around 25 percent were deadly.

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