Decorating for the holidays? Remember these safe tips

christmasU.S. Fire Administration

Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season.

Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire.

Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year.

Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.

Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and your tree from creating a tragedy.

Christmas trees

  • What’s a traditional Christmas morning scene without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, keep the tree watered.
  • Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Selecting a tree for the holidays

Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Caring for your tree

  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
  • Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Holiday lights, decorations

  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires — they should not be warm to the touch.
  • Most importantly, do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
  • All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
  • Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.

Candle care

  • Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.
  • If you do use lit candles, make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas. Never leave a burning candle unattended and never put lit candles on a tree

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