One of the deadliest Christmas tree fires on record occurred almost 25 years ago when a Michigan father and six of his children were killed after the Christmas tree caught fire and the fire spread throughout the home. According to the Plymouth-Canton Patch, Martin Dell’Orco tried to remove the burning tree from the house while his wife, Debbie, called the fire department.
She and one of the couple’s nine children survived, but Dell’Orco died when he went back into the house to rescue six sleeping children, ages 4 through 12, who died. Two other children were not at home. When firefighters arrived at the house, it was fully engulfed.
A FEMA report stated the following: “In this fire the tree was dry and overheated or defective lights provided the ignition source. This fire reached overwhelming proportions at lightning speed and left the family helpless to survive.”
NFPA’s safety tips sheet on Christmas trees provides a list of precautions.
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights.
- Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
NFPA’s Project Holiday provides extensive safety information to help ensure the holiday season is a safe one. If a fire does occur, smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. Smoke Alarm Central is a complete source of smoke alarm information.