A Spanish Fork family is staying with relatives this holiday after their artificial Christmas tree went up in flames, causing significant damage to their house at 294 West 200 North.
The homeowner, Shane Shaw, is grateful his wife wasn't home at the time, but he's devastated that his home for nearly a decade is a total loss. He's not exactly sure what caused the fire, but fears it may be because he left the Christmas tree lights on.
The fire ignited after Shaw took his kids to school. He came home to grab some tools he forgot and saw the smoke and flames.
"I left about 8:15, came back at nine o'clock and my house was up in flames," Shaw said.
He described 30 foot flames shooting out the window from the main floor. Shaw believes it was an electrical fire.
"We left the tree plugged in, I know that," he said. " "I don't know that's what caused it but we plugged it in this morning and we all left, just forgot to unplug it. It happens everyday."
He says the lights on the tree were also on. Now, what was his living room has been gutted by fire. The flames quickly spread upstairs as well. As some YouTube videos demonstrate, Christmas trees can go up in flames in less than a minute. It doesn't take long for your living room to turn into a raging inferno.
"The US Fire administration estimates that on the average fire departments around the country respond to 210 structure fires involving Christmas trees per year," said Jasen Asay, spokesperson for the Salt Lake City Fire Department.
Asay said fires involving artificial trees aren't as common as with real trees, but if the lights are continually left on, the plastic can overheat and ignite. Firefighters said don't overload the plugs, and never leave the lights on unless you're home.
"We'd suggest turning your Christmas tree lights off whether you leave the house or at night when you go to sleep," Asay said. "I know a lot of people might want to leave them on but it's just a fire hazard."
"I don't have a home, lost everything I worked my whole life for," Shaw said.
"It's down the drain, most of it I can't replace."
Shane Shaw lost his children's pictures and the presents he planned on giving them for Christmas, but at least they have family to stay with so the Shaws aren't homeless.
If you'd like to help the family, there's an account set up in their name at Chase bank.
Meanwhile, firefighters said whether you have an artificial or real Christmas tree, keep it away from heat sources. If it's a real tree, water it everyday. After two weeks, Christmas trees tend to dry up so the risk for fire danger increases.