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Top Fire Hazards This Season: Christmas Trees and Space Heaters

Posted December 21, 2016

{1:45 minutes to read} Did you know that live and fresh-cut Christmas trees are illegal in New York City buildings with over 75 people? After a rash of Christmas tree fires in 1943, Local Law 29 was passed prohibiting real trees and allowing only fireproofed garlands and wreaths. The law is primarily targeted toward commercial and residential buildings that put up trees during the holidays, as a lobby fire could block exits and endanger everyone in the building.

While this code is widely overlooked, the fact is that there are two significant fire risks that New York City residents encounter during this time of year: Christmas trees and portable space heaters. In the case of heat, landlords are required to provide sufficient heat to keep the indoor temperature at or above 68 degrees from 6am to 10pm between October 1 through May 31 if the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees. Between 10pm and 6am, if the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees, inside temperatures must be at least 55 degrees. Unfortunately, not all landlords adhere to this law, and many families purchase portable heaters. According to the Harvard University Environmental Health & Safety group, space heaters cause 25,000 home fires a year, and 6,000 emergency room visits. In addition, improperly vented heaters can produce dangerous carbon monoxide levels. 

If your landlord is not supplying sufficient heat, you can file a claim by calling 311. If there is a live Christmas tree in your lobby, you may want to discreetly call it to the superintendent’s attention and suggest they consider artificial trees in the future.

Stay safe and happy holidays, from Langsam Law!

Case study

Langsam Law represented a case where a young girl was burned when she rolled out of bed and grazed a portable heater. In this circumstance, the landlord was not providing any heat to the tenants. The case was settled on the grounds that, had the landlord been supplying heat to the building in compliance with New York City safety codes, the family would not have needed a heater. 

Note: Prior results do not guarantee similar results.

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