The Logan County Emergency Management Office wants to remind everyone during this holiday season to take the necessary precautions when putting up your festive decorations, including your Christmas tree, because a time of celebration can quickly turn into a devastating tragedy if the proper steps are not taken.
“We like to remind people each year before Christmas that decorations can be hazardous if they are not installed properly,” said Emergency Management Director Rodney Harkleroad. “We realize that this is an exciting time of year, and people are always on the go. But when it comes to putting up decorations there are a lot of steps you should follow first to assure you have a safe and happy holiday season.”
A fire on any day seems bad, but a fire at the holiday season seems to be the worst. Some 300 trees caught fire in one recent year, with electrical problems the most common culprit. Here’s some tips put out by emergency management on how to keep your tree green and your presents safe.
When you buy a real tree, have the vendor make a fresh cut an inch from the trunk bottom; this will help the tree absorb water. If you buy your tree early and keep it outside, store it away from wind and sun, and keep the trunk bottom in a bucket of water.
Make sure your lights are safe. If you need outdoor lights, make sure the ones you buy are meant for outdoor use. Make sure your lights carry certification from a testing laboratory. Do not use electric lights on a metal tree. Discard any strings of lights that are frayed or broken. Holiday lights are cheap. Unplug your tree before you leave or go to bed.
Do not buy a tree that is dry and dropping needles. To check for freshness, loosely grip the end of a branch and pull your hand over it. Only a few needles should fall off. Make sure your tree stand holds plenty of water, and do not let it run out. If your tree seems wobbly, center it in the stand more securely and redo the bolts or screws. If your tree stand is cheap, buy a larger, stronger one.
If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it is fire-retardant. Keep your tree at least three feet from furnaces, radiators and fireplaces. Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits. When the holidays are over or when the tree starts to drop needles, dispose of it. Do not leave it in your house or put it in your garage.
Keep a close eye on small children when they are around the tree; many small decorations and ornaments are sharp, breakable and can be swallowed.
According to the National Fire Safety Association, between 2006-2010, 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 4 deaths, 21 injuries, and $17.3 million in direct property damage annually.
Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 66 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. A heat source too close to the Christmas tree started one of every five (18%) of these fires. Nineteen percent of home Christmas tree structure fires were intentionally set. Nearly three-fourths (72%) of the intentionally set Christmas tree fires occurred in the 15 days after Christmas and may have been related to disposal.
“We want to wish people a happy holiday season, but most importantly we want to wish people a safe holiday season,” said Harkleroad.