Keep your Christmas tree...and your home...safe

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 The holiday season is often said to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” People are cheery, gifts are given, and families gather together. But this magical time can quickly turn tragic if proper care is not given to Christmas tree safety.

Christmas Tree Fires: For many people, Christmas trees “make” the holiday. Unfortunately they also pose a great fire hazard. Each year more than 400 homes catch on fire somehow because of Christmas trees. Tragically, nearly 40 deaths and at least 100 injuries result from those fires annually.

There are steps you can take to help prevent a Christmas tree fire. First, you should always choose a fresh tree. Select one that has green needles that are difficult to pluck from the branches. Another sign that you have a live, healthy tree is a bit of sticky sap on the trunk. Keep your tree healthy and alive by watering it regularly. As a tree dies, its needles will turn tan and become much more flammable. When the tree begins to lose a lot of needles, it is time to get rid of it.

If you use an artificial tree, make sure that it is labeled as fire resistant. If the artificial tree comes with lights already attached, make sure that it has the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label, which means that it has been tested for safety.

If you plan to light your tree yourself, look for the UL label on the package. Check light strands for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. If the light strand is damaged, do not use it – it’s not worth the risk. 

Be sure to use indoor lights, not outdoor lights, to decorate your tree. And never use lighted candles on or near your tree.

Electrical fires are common during Christmas time. Avoid the tragedy by adhering to common sense rules. Don’t place the tree near electrical appliances or loose wires. 

Don’t overload extension cords with lights. Each extension cord should support no more than 3 strands of lights. Lastly, be sure to turn off all lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.

Tipping Trees: After fires, the only real tree-related hazard is a tree that falls over. To avoid this, place your tree in a low-traffic area so that people do not push into it. Use a tree stand that is the proper size to support a tree the size of yours. Secure it well into the base before beginning to decorate. While decorating, always use a step stool or ladder to reach high places. Many people have knocked their trees over while trying to place the star at the top. An incident like that can certainly ruin the magic of the moment!