Firefighters demonstrate Christmas tree hazards

SPOKANE, Wash. - There's nothing more “Christmas” than a tree draped in lights and surrounded by family and friends. When you're not around, though, that unattended Christmas tree could be trouble.

On a cold December morning, just days before Christmas, Rick Freier and about a dozen other Spokane Valley Firefighters proved just how devastating the Christmas tradition can be.

The firefighters showcased a tree they had bought seven days ago and hadn't watered at all. It was dried out, just like so many trees across Spokane Valley.

They then proceeded to show a simulated failure of an electrical wire that set the tree ablaze, in the hope to demonstrate how important it is to water your Christmas tree.

Rick and his team cut a small hole through the plywood to simulate an electrical outlet. Within seconds, the combination of a small spark and a dry Christmas tree was breathtaking.

“This is what I wanted you to see, how quickly the flames hit the ceiling and started moving,” said Freier.

Less than a minute after the spark, the entire tree was engulfed, with flames consuming the make-shift living room corner. After the fire was effortlessly extinguished, the team wasn't done.

Rick wanted to run the same simulation with a fake tree. As expected, the plastic tree didn't go up nearly as quick as the real Douglas Fir, but the smoke it produced was far more potent and toxic.

The moral of the story: water your Christmas trees, and keep them away from outlets, no matter what you think you know.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department urges anyone with safety questions to visit their website at