Firefighters Burn Christmas to a Crisp

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CLEVELAND -- Each year, Christmas tree fires are the cause of nearly 250 house fires nationwide.

Friday morning, the Cleveland Division of Fire held a safety demonstration to show how quickly a tree fire can damage your home and turn deadly.

It was a beautifully decorated tree with presents underneath, but firefighters showed how a dry tree and everything around it can burn up in a matter of minutes.

"People don't understand how fast that thing can go up and how quickly the whole room is charged with fire," said Captain Roy Ziganti.

Firefighters hold a yearly safety demonstration on Christmas trees at their
training facility in Cleveland.

Each year, house fires caused by Christmas trees result in an average of 16 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage.

"Ten years ago there were probably 150 home fires during the holiday season.  Ten years later we are up to 250, and with modern technology you would think that the numbers would decrease, but unfortunately they are increasing," said Larry Gray of the Cleveland Division of Fire.

At Friday's demonstration, the room heated up to more than 1,000 degrees, burning everything to a crisp until firefighters extinguished the flames.

Ziganti said people just need to follow some simple rules to keep their family safe when they purchase a natural Christmas tree.

"People have to water their tree a couple times a day, you have to check it constantly and also have to make sure that all your wiring, and any lighting, that they are in good condition and you have no shorts," said Ziganti.

Firefighters say the first line of defense in your home is smoke detectors, so they urge you to change the batteries twice a year plus check them monthly.

"The smoke almost always kills you before the fire because you just can't breathe, whether it's the heat from the fire itself or just the gases that are part off by the fire, you just can't breathe and you go down," said Ziganti.

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