Christmas trees are the iconic symbol of the holiday season for American households. But did you know that your seemingly harmless tree can be a devastating fire waiting to happen?

Although home fires started by Christmas trees are relatively uncommon, their risk for causing serious injury or death is unusually high, according to a recent National Fire Protection Association report. From 2010 to 2014, U.S. fire departments responded to 210 Christmas tree-caused residential structure fires per year, the report said. One of every 34 of these fires resulted in a death, compared to one death per 142 reported home fires not involving Christmas trees. Direct property damage was estimated at $16.2 million per year.

Dry, natural trees were the culprit in the vast majority of the tree fires. In one-fourth of the fires, some type of heat source — a candle, fireplace, space heater, etc. — was too close to the tree. Electrical failures or malfunctions accounted for another quarter of these fires. The majority of the fires occurred between noon and midnight, with 20 percent reported to have started between 6–9 p.m.

This month, OneEvent Technologies worked with Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Fire Safety Center to conduct research on Christmas tree fires, along with fires caused by other sources. OneEvent set out to test early detection of all the fire scenarios by its OnePrevent home and business monitoring system.

Watch the video above to see a Christmas tree fire started by a space heater placed too close to the tree. As you can see, the tree fire’s intensity was very high, and acceleration was extremely rapid. The OnePrevent system notifications appeared well before the fire even began and alarms went off, because the system is able to sense even subtle changes in temperature as well as the presence of smoke. The testing allowed OneEvent to gather important carbon monoxide data that will help the system become even more sensitive to the presence of this gas when fires start.

Follow these tips to avoid a Christmas tree fire:

  • Keep the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source, such as a fireplace, radiator, candle, heat vent or light.
  • Add water to the tree stand daily.
  • Use light strands that are tested and approved by a qualified laboratory, and are specified for indoor use. Replace lights with broken or worn cords, or loose bulbs. Don’t connect too many strands of lights. Turn the tree lights off before going to bed or leaving your home.

Watch a longer clip of OneEvent and CVTC’s testing below.