Fairfax Co. blaze that killed woman began with Christmas tree lights

Fire investigators in Fairfax County, Virginia, say a blaze that tore through a house the day after Christmas, killing an 86-year-old woman, was sparked by ornamental lights on a live Christmas tree.

The fire has been ruled an accident, officials said in a Jan. 25 update on Twitter.

Investigators determined the fire “originated on a natural Christmas tree and involved the incandescent ornament lighting.”

The woman who was killed was identified as Crista Mensh.

One other person was injured in the blaze, which broke out shortly after 7 p.m. on Dec. 26 in the house in the 3500 block of Goodview Court.

The fire department estimated the total damage at $615,275.

The National Fire Protection Association said Christmas tree fires have declined over the past 20 years, but that nationwide between 2016 and 2020, American fire departments responded to an estimated average of 160 such fires each year.

About a third of Christmas tree fires are electrical in nature, the group said.

People who buy live trees should make sure they add water to the tree stand daily so that the tree doesn’t become too dry, and should check lights for worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections.

See other safety tips from the NFPA online.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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