The practice of putting up and decorating Christmas trees started in America in the early 19th century by German-speaking immigrants and soon became popular among those who celebrated the holiday. One way of decorating the trees that was popular was with candles. This was difficult to manage until 1878 when Frederick Artz invented a clip-on candle holder.
As you can imagine, flames and dry trees did not commingle very well. In those days, the candles would only be kept lit for short periods and wise ones would have buckets of sand and water nearby. But accidental Christmas tree fires became so prevalent that insurance companies stopped covering fires started due to candle-lit trees.
Then in 1882, Edward Johnson, inventor, associate of Thomas Edison, and vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company developed the first electrically illuminated Christmas lights for his own tree. But the setup was too expensive for the average American. Yet Edison was so impressed by them that he and Johnson tinkered for the next eight years to create a marketable product until they came up with, “Edison Miniature Lamps for Christmas Trees.” And many improvements have been made to them over the years.
So, Christmas lights are now safe and you no longer have to be worried about fires in your Kansas City home, right? Well, no. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, there are an estimated 210 home fires involving Christmas trees in the U.S. each year. That may not seem a lot, but those fires cause an annual average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $16.2 million in property damage. About 25% of those fires are the result of electrical problems or heat sources — including electric lights, candles, fireplaces, and radiators — kept too close to the tree. So Christmas tree fire safety is vital.
How to Prevent Fires from Holiday Lights
As decorating begins in or around your Kansas City home, follow this Sage advice and safety tips:
- Check out all lights and wires. Replace any broken sockets, tighten or replace loose connections, and don’t use bare or frayed wires. Burned-out bulbs should only be replaced with those of the same wattage.
- Only use lights that have been approved by either UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or ETL Semko (Intertek).
- Ensure that all outdoor electrical decorations are plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This device cuts the power if electricity comes into contact with water, which can easily happen outside.
- Use LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs. Not only do LEDs burn cooler, but, according to the S. Department of Energy, they’re around 75 percent more efficient. And never connect LEDs and incandescent lights on the same wiring. Incandescent lights draw a stronger power current than LEDs, so connecting them could cause LED strings to overload and fry.
- Never use metal fasteners like nails, staples, or tacks when hanging lights. These can damage the wiring. If exposed wires connect with metal, they can generate enough heat to start a fire, as well as create an electrocution hazard.
- Turn off all lighted decorations before retiring for the night. (You and most of your Kansas City neighbors will be asleep and won’t see them anyway. 😊)
- And those candles used for Christmas tree decorations years ago? Never, ever (ever!) use those!
If You Do Experience a Fire
No matter how much you try to be safety-conscious, accidents happen and a fire may break out in your Kansas City area home. We hope that never happens, but if so, call the fire disaster experts at Sage Restoration. For over thirteen years, Sage Restoration has been the go-to company for all types of disaster restoration. We not only understand what you’ve gone through but our technicians are licensed and certified in all aspects of fire and smoke damage restoration and will quickly get your home back to normal.