This holiday season, Town of Brookhaven officials are warning residents about the dangers of poor Christmas tree maintenance. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees are the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year. These fires result in an annual average of seven civilian deaths, 19 civilian injuries, and $17.5 million in direct property damage. On average, one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires result in a death, compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires. The fire comes quickly, as officials showed how a simulated electrical fault can spark near or on the tree. The spark then attaches to the tree and takes over in a matter of seconds. Within a minute, the entire “burn pod” was destroyed. Brookhaven chief fire marshal Chris Mehrman said residents should never keep a tree near or blocking an exit, in case of emergency. He also demonstrated how a well-maintained tree that is watered every day and kept well will not even ignite. Councilman Michael Loguercio took a blowtorch to a tree branch to demonstrate, but to no avail. He also suggested safe wiring practices that prevent the risk of electrical shocks or shortages, and to make sure smoke detectors are up to date with fresh batteries. “This ruins holidays,” Mehrman said, urging families to be safe. After the demonstration, firefighters swiftly put out the flames using water. To see video of the demonstration, visit the Long Island Advance on Facebook. Pictured is Brookhaven chief fire marshal Chris Mehrman showing how a Christmas tree can become engulfed in flames if kept in poor condition.