It just isn’t the holidays until you’ve trimmed the tree and strung the lights. Some just go with a simple, pre-lit tree; others choose to go all out and decorate every surface inside their homes and even yards! Whatever your amount of electric holiday spirit, this advice on fire prevention will give you peace of mind so you can enjoy those gorgeous decorations and cozy nights in near the hearth.
Christmas trees are the lynchpin of holiday decorating; unfortunately, they are also the most frequent type of seasonal decor to cause fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that “between 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage annually.” That’s a lot of ruined Christmas mornings!
To prevent Christmas tree fires, NFPA recommends choosing a tree with the freshest and greenest branches that don’t shed easily when touched. Keep the tree at least three feet away from any heat source, and add fresh water to the base every day. Always turn lights off before leaving the house or going to bed. After Christmas, “get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.”
Our own San Juan Island fire chief, Steve Marler, had some excellent tips of his own to share with us.
-Never try to repair any holiday light strings. Recycle the old ones and support the local business community by replacing them with more energy-efficient lights.
-Pay attention the instructions on light packaging, and do not string together more than the recommended amount.
-If you are using an extension cord, be careful not to place it where it may be damaged by being stepped on or shut in a door. If the cord feels hot when you touch it, it is overloaded and a serious fire hazard.
-Never dispose of your Christmas tree by burning it inside your fireplace!
-Have a plan of action in place, and make sure everyone in your household knows how to implement. Have two exits ready in case of a fire, and meet at a pre-determined location outside the house. Never go back inside a burning building, that’s what the firefighters are for.
Chief Marler ended with reminding us that the most important rule is to celebrate the season! Now that you know how to keep the festivities safe, go all out with your decorations!