Tis the Season for an Increase in House Fires, Federal Consumer Agency Warns

The trees contribute to an estimated 200 house fires in the U.S. every year.

— -- It only took less than a minute for a blazing inferno to rip through a dried-out Christmas tree today in a demonstration at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in Rockville, Maryland. To the fire's left, another tree burned, but at a much slower pace. That's because it was well-watered.

"In many respects, Christmas trees are a hidden hazard. We don't realize how explosively flammable they can be," CPSC Commissioner Bob Adler told ABC News.

"It's important that people know this because the holiday season is a season for celebrating, not crying because of a tragedy."

Christmas trees contribute to an estimated 200 house fires every year in the United States, costing close to $17 million in property loss. When trees dry out, they can burn faster than newspapers, according to the CPSC.

Similarly, candles contribute to an estimated 6,500 fire incidents every year.

Such fires result in December being one of the most deadly months for house fires, CPSC says, and Adler has a simple piece of advice.

"When you buy a tree, take a needle and fold it. If it breaks, it's too dry. If it bends, then you've got a well-watered one,” he told ABC News. “When you take it home, make sure it stays well-watered.”