MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Christmas trees are a staple of the Christmas holiday and they bring a lot of joy to people, except in the off-chance something goes wrong and they catch on fire.
"It's supposed to be a time for family and happiness and to see somebody lose their home and their belongings, it's a terrible thing to witness. And I can't imagine going through it," said Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Tom Gwyer.
Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue lit two Christmas trees on fire in the department's training facility Thursday to show just how quickly Christmas trees can ignite.
Firefighters began with a regularly-watered tree. The fire took a little while to grow at the base then the flames quickly shot up toward the ceiling.
"Once they ignite, they go up pretty fast. And if you have it in a corner, you have it by a window and you have curtains and other combustibles around it, then those are going to ignite. Then it's not going to take but several minutes to get that room well-involved," Gwyer said.
The firefighters then lit a dried-out Christmas tree. The fire was hotter and much smokier.
"If you don't water it every single day and it gets dried out, it's going to light off and it's going to light off quick," Gwyer said.
Simply watering a Christmas tree regularly is one prevention tool.
Even though Christmas lights themselves nowadays don't get too hot, avoid overloading electrical outlets with them.
"Too many lights plugged in together, the outlet can short-circuit, which can in turn cause a chain reaction, basically," Gwyer said. "It's not necessarily the lights. It's just too much connected to the outlet."
If a tree does catch fire, stay low to the ground to breathe the air with the least amount of smoke and to be able to get the most visibility.
Smoke detectors are also critical to warn of smoke in the vicinity.