EL PASO, Texas -- A favorite holiday tradition could pose a fire risk if done incorrectly: Christmas trees. As holiday decorations go up, and heaters come out, there are several things to remember to ensure a safe holiday and prevent a fire.
"Everybody's thinking about Christmas and having a good time," El Paso Fire Capt. Larry Hernandez said. "Nobody wants to think about a fire at the time. Most people burn wood in the fireplaces, so a tree is no different, and then the pine needles they catch even faster."
The National Fire Protection Association said Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are usually serious. The risk can be easy to forget, but just as easy to avoid.
"Make sure you get a stand that can hold enough water, so you can keep it watered at all times," Hernandez said.
Decorations, like lights, can be dangerous too.
"You want to make sure that you don't over light it because that over lighting is going to cause additional heat," El Paso Fire Capt. Manuel Maldonado said.
The NFPA says that about one fourth of Christmas tree fires start after a source of heat is placed too close to the tree, such as a space heater or open flame.
"These trees can go up within minutes and our response time is, is three to four minutes," Hernandez said.
In a simulated Christmas tree fire conducted by the El Paso Fire Department, a tree was engulfed in flames in just over 60 seconds.
"This was a controlled environment, so you could see how quickly the tree went up," EPFD Lt. Timothy Burns said. "Next thing that would have caught is the walls, the presence, the couch. We were here ready to fight fire. At a normal house fire, we won't be."