The picture, left, shows how quickly a Christmas Tree fire can become an inferno.
Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
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Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle 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, 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.
Disposing of Your Tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
Maintain Your Holiday Lights
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 Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord or a power strip before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires they should not be warm to the touch. Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended.
Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace
It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
Artificial Christmas Trees
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant. Read the directions carefully for Fiber Optic trees, some trees should not be lit for extended times.
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep the wick trimmed and do not burn jar candles down more than the manufacturers recommendation. Never leave the house with candles burning.
Do not go near a christmas tree with an open flame candles, lighters or matches.
And, if you're entertaining over the Holidays and friends or relatives who smoke have visited, be sure to check on the floor and around chair cushions for ashes that may have been dropped accidentally. Don't put ashtrays on the arms of sofas or chairs.
Empty ashtrays into an airtight metal container. Warm ashes dumped in waste cans can smolder for hours, then ignite. Don't leave cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended. Put out all smoking materials before you walk away.
Use large ashtrays with wide lips. While smaller ashtrays may be more attractive, they are not safe. Cigarettes can roll off the edge, and ashes can easily be blown away.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.