Play it safe this holiday season

In case the Facebook posts and Instagram uploads haven’t given it away yet, it’s Christmas time – and that means it’s tree time.

It’s a beautiful, bright and shiny time of year – but it can go up in flames – literally, go up in flames – if you’re not careful.

While there weren’t any tree fires reported last year, the living room centerpiece can still pose a fire threat. Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan has these tips for you to keep in mind:

Selecting a tree: Buy a cut tree as fresh as possible. Tap the end on the ground, grab a branch near the top and pull your hand along it slowly. Needles should not fall off. If you bend a needle and it breaks before bending in half, it’s too dry. If you use an artificial tree, select one with a flame retardant label.

Caring for the tree: Make a fresh cut an inch or two off the bottom before placing it in the stand. This will help with absorption. Water a live tree every day.

Placing the tree: Place your tree in a stand with wide feet, using extra wires if needed to keep it steady. Keep doorways and exits clear. Place your tree and decorations away from heaters, fireplaces, candles, and other sources of heat.

Decorating the tree: Purchase electric holiday lights that are listed by an approved testing agency and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Consider switching to new LED lights that are cooler and use less electricity. Make sure the bulbs themselves are not touching the tree, curtains, wrapped gifts, or tree skirt. Never use lit candles as decorations. Turn off the lights when leaving the house or going to bed. If you use an artificial tree, do not use electric lights on metal trees.

Disposing of the tree: Remove your tree soon after the holidays and take advantage of your community’s pick-up day if available.

 But it doesn’t end there. You need to take caution with outdoor decorations, too.

Be sure to use only lights rated for outdoor use.

Securely anchor outdoor lights and decorations against the wind and storms with insulated holders or hooks.

Do not drive nails, staples or tacks through wiring insulation; this can cause a fire.

All outdoor electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.

Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life. Consider replacing old outdoor lights with newer LED lights that are ‘greener’ and cooler.


–Erica Starke


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