COMMENTARY: Dreaming of a fire-safe Christmas


With Christmas fast approaching, many of us look forward to decorating the home for the holidays. Regardless of interior or exterior illumination, or if you have a artificial tree versus live tree, keeping your home safe from hazards will help you have a fire-safe Christmas.

According to The National Fire Protection Association, between the years of 2009 through 2013 ,nearly 1,100 fires a year happened in the United States due to Christmas lights and decorations catching fire.

One of the most age-old debates ever held is, “artificial tree versus live tree”. If you are like the character Clark Griswold in the movie “Christmas Vacation,” and you want the “live experience,” then by all means head to your local tree farm and pick out that tree that catches your eye.

However artificial trees have been known to have fewer safety concerns with less attention devoted to them. But both come with their own set of safety issues. An artificial tree is most likely to catch decorations on fire when the lights overload the electrical sockets.

By reading the instructions that come with the Christmas tree lights, you can determine how many lights can be used safely, before becoming a fire hazard.

Prior to placing the lights on the tree make sure you check the wires for tears and defects as well as loose bulbs.

If you do chose to go with a live tree, then there are a few things you must keep in mind. When choosing a live tree make sure you choose one with green needles that don’t fall off when you touch them.

Before placing your live tree in the stand, you will need to cut 2 inches from the trunk of the tree. Once you have your tree inside, remember to keep the tree 3 feet from any and all heat sources such as heaters, radiators, candles or fireplaces.

Do not block any doorways with your tree. Make sure you water your live tree daily. A dry tree is a severe fire threat so keeping the tree properly watered will help reduce the threat.

It’s recommended that when you go to bed or leave your home that you unplug your tree. Also do not place an extension cord under a rug or your Christmas tree skirt as a spark could cause a fire that may go undetected until it’s too late.

And if you chose to decorate the outside of your home, make sure you chose lights that are rated for outdoor use. Make sure you have someone to help you with the decorations that can help steady a ladder while you are on it, and can act as a spotter while you hang the lights.

If you have guests staying over, make sure they are aware of your “Fire Escape Plan” by knowing not only where to exit your home if needed, but where your meeting place is. Also, remember to test your smoke detectors and if Santa is bringing your children battery operated toys, ask him to include extra batteries for the smoke detectors.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Eugene Tucker is public information officer for the Felton Community Fire Company.

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