Christmas trees can be a beautiful symbol of the holiday season. Unfortunately, they can also be deadly. Do not let this holiday season leave you homeless from a fire because you and your family did not practice fire safety. Here are a few safety tips to keep you and your family from being a fire statistic this holiday season.
Buying a Live Tree
- Natural trees should be cut at a 45 degree angle at the base and placed in water.
- Check for freshness.
- A fresh tree is deep green in color and has a strong sent of pine.
- The needles of a fresh tree are hard to pull from branches and do not readily fall from the branches; moreover, the branches should bend easily.
- The trunk of a fresh tree is also sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
Displaying Your Tree
- Trees should be securely fastened in the holder.
- Keep the tree in an area away from a radiator, fireplace, or other heat sources.
- Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Water your tree often.
- When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
- Never put tree branches in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Decorating Your Tree
- Use only U-L labeled tree lights. Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards.
- Do not overload outlets. Be careful how many items you plug into a receptacle. Be careful where you lay cords and lights. For added electric shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s). Portable outdoor GFCI’s can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. A qualified electrician can permanently install GFCI’s into household circuits.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Do not use damaged lights.
- Use no more than 3 standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
- Do not knot or tangle the wires.
- Do not leave lights on unattended. Always unplug lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Use only lights designated for outdoor use, outdoors. Do not use indoor-labeled lights outside.
- The best lights are new ones.
Outdoor Holiday Lights
- For Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards.
- For added electric shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s). Portable outdoor GFCI’s can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. A qualified electrician can permanently install GFCI’s into household circuits.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (available at hardware stores) to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks.
- Never use real candles on a tree or near other evergreens or decorations. Open flames from candles often lead to fire. December is the peak month for candle fires, with nearly twice the average number of incidents.
- When decorating the house with candles, always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked over by children or pets.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or unleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Do not smoke near the tree or decorations.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Always follow the same safety tips listed above regarding decorations.