TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As people decorate their homes for the holidays and buy their Christmas trees, fire safety officials in Florida are reminding residents of just how quickly a Christmas tree fire can destroy their homes.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis staged a live Christmas tree burn at the Tallahassee Fire Department on Wednesday to show the dangers the trees can pose if you’re not careful. Less than a minute after the flames were lit, the tree was fully engulfed in a blaze, according to WTXL.

“Over 44% of the fires we have every year, every Christmas, are due to some type of Christmas lighting issue. So making sure you’re using new lights no problems with those, hydrated tree, you can really lessen the threat of a disaster at Christmas,” Patronis explained.

Patronis says trees can become dry and easily ignite if not maintained properly.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says about one third of Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems. According to the NFPA, there were 160 house fires caused by burning Christmas trees in the U.S. between 2016 and 2020. On average, two people are killed each year, 11 are injured and the fires cause about $12 million in property damage annually.

Here are a few holiday fire safety tips provided by Patronis:

  1. Check the water in your tree stand every day. When your Christmas tree dries out, it becomes more flammable and can lead to disaster.
  2. Never leave tree lights on overnight or while you are out. Not unplugging lighting can be an accident waiting to happen. Additionally, always purchase lights that have been accepted by a national testing organization.
  3. Open flames don’t belong near your Christmas tree. A lit candle and a Christmas tree can cause a dangerous situation in a hurry.
  4. Change out damaged or broken lights. Don’t wait until it is too late. If a there is a problem with a bulb or string of lights, replace it right away. Always read all manufacturer’s instructions prior to making any repairs.
  5. Do not store your tree in the home or garage. A dry tree can pose a serious fire risk when left in a garage or car port. Do not place your tree against the home before disposal.