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For many people across the country this is the most magical time of year.  The Christmas season brings with it family traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation.  One tradition that many people partake in is putting up Christmas decorations to help them get in the holiday spirit.  There is one decorative piece that typically causes some debate, the Christmas tree.  Everyone has their opinions on whether to put up a real tree or an artificial tree.  At the end of the day it does not matter what option you chose, as long as it brings you some joy.     

When it comes time to deck the halls this Christmas season it is important to keep fire safety in mind.  According to most recent data from the National Fire Protection Association, fires that started due to Christmas trees caused $10.3 million dollars in property damage.  Not surprisingly, 75 percent of Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.  The leading cause of these fires are decorative lighting (17 percent), wiring or related equipment (15 percent), heating equipment to close to the tree (13 percent), and electrical cords or plugs (7 Percent).  Below are some safety tips to keep in mind this Christmas season to keep you and your family safe. 

  • Purchasing the tree
    • If buying an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Retardant.”  Although this label does not mean the tree will not catch fire, it does indicated that the tree will resist burning and extinguish quickly. 
    • If buying a real tree, check for freshness.  Important things to look for are green needles, needles are hard to pull from the branches, the needles bend between your fingers without breaking, the lower trunk is sticky with resin, and when the tree is tapped on the ground, it does not lose to many needles. 
  • Decorating the tree
    • Use only indoor or outdoor lights that have been safety tested and labeled as such by an independent testing laboratory. 
    • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. 
    • Use no more than three standard standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
    • Do not run electrical cords under rugs.  Walking traffic can weaken the insulation and cause the wires to overheat, increasing the chances of fire or electrical shock. 
    • Keep animals away from electrical cords to avoid hazards caused by entanglement and chewing. 
    • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house or office.
    • Position bulbs so that they are not on direct contact with needles or ornaments. 
    • Never use lit candles on an artificial or live Christmas tree. 
    • Never place paper-wrapped or paper bagged gifts near open flames or electrical connections. 
    • Remove all wrapping paper, boxes, and other trash form the tree and fire place areas immediately after the presents are opened. 
  • Disposing the Tree
    • Remove live trees as soon as possible, the longer a live tree stays up, the greater the fire risk.  It is best to remove live trees within one month of purchase. 
    • Do not store a discarded live tree in your house or garage.     
    • Dispose of trees at a tree recycling center or have it hauled away by a community pick-up service. 
    • Never burn Christmas tree, evergreen branches or needles in a fireplace or wood stove.  Firs and pines have a lot of sap, which can explode and needle burn like tinder. 

It does not matter what type of tree you decide to put in your home or business, just make sure to take the proper precautions when decorating.  Until next time my friends, be prepared and stay safe. 

Everyone at the Gerloff Family would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas!

Reference: “Christmas Tree Fires” by Marty Ahrens and Radhika Maheshwari and “Christmas Tree Safety Fact Sheet” by Texas Department of Insurance.