How quickly can a Christmas tree catch fire?

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BLOOMFIELD, N.M. — Christmas trees bring a lot of joy during the holidays, but the popular holiday tradition can become a fire hazard, in more ways than just one.

“Typically getting a fresh tree is great for the holidays, they smell good, they’re pretty,” said Capt. Shay Aurnhammer with San Juan County Fire and Rescue.

But if you’re not careful, that fresh scent of pine can turn to smoke – that was the fate for Aurnhammer’s office tree. “

I got this tree a week ago and left it out in my office for the entire week to dry out, it was not watered, it was not treated, and that was the result,” he said.

Within minutes, the Christmas tree was more like a campfire.

“Lit up in five minutes before we put water on it,” Aurnhammer said. “Typically, a response from the fire department in any city, or county is not within five minutes, they’re on their way but if you’re in a rural part of the area it takes longer to get there.”

But there are ways to minimize the risk, like making sure your tree always has water.

“NIOSH has done studies that have shown how much faster a dry tree will go up in flames as opposed to a watered tree and that time is almost cut in half if not more.”

Don’t forget about the lights, too.

“Use LED lights, don’t use any open flames near it, and just make sure you’re unplugging your Christmas tree at night or when you leave the house.”

Aurnhammer added that artificial trees are usually safer because they are manufactured to be fire-resistant. Regardless of what tree you have, be sure to unplug your tree lights before going to bed and when leaving home.