VIDEO: SFFD firefighters show how flammable Christmas trees can be

TREASURE ISLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Christmas is right around the corner and as many prepare to dress their trees in twinkling lights, set presents under the branches and enjoy the holidays with friends and family, fire and fire safety is often overlooked.

The San Francisco Fire Department and Northern California Coastal Region of the Red Cross came together to bring fire safety back to the forefront as there are many risk factors that arise during the holiday season.

"The biggest misconception on home fires is how long you have to get out of the house if something happens," said Trevor Riggen, Regional CEO of the Northern California Coastal Region of the Red Cross. "All the experts say you have two minutes, two minutes to get out of your home safely. Most Americans actually think they have as much as five and a small percentage think as much as ten minutes."

Riggen cites dry Christmas trees, crowded electrical sockets and candles as potential fire starters. "A tree that's dried out completely is just tender. A small spark can send up that tree pretty fast," he told ABC7 News. "Make sure you keep watering it until you actually take it from your house so it can stay as green as possible."

In a fire demonstration at Treasure Island overlooking the San Francisco Bay, SFFD officials plugged Christmas lights into a shoddy socket near a set of drapes and a dry Christmas tree, leaving the plug half-cocked so electricity could spark.

In a matter of seconds smoke came from the plug. In a matter of minutes flames ignited the drapes sending embers into the air. The tree ignited shortly after, creating a plume of white smoke demonstrating just how fast these often deadly incidents can happen.

Officials encourage all families to have an exit plan and to practice it often to be prepared in case of an emergency in addition to checking smoke alarms often. These practices can help your family stay safe, whether it's the holiday season or not.
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