Nothing makes a home feel more Christmassy than a decorated tree. The smell of pine, the pretty lights, the ornaments that spark memories . . . . but let that be the only sparks that fly this year. Hundreds of fires are caused by Christmas trees each year. If you’d rather be full of spirit than full of cinders, then consider these tips for keeping your home and family safe this year.
When choosing a tree, be sure to choose one that is fresh. Shake a branch to be sure that needles are not falling off. Before even leaving the lot or nursery, ask to have about two inches cut off of the base. (Most places are more than happy to accommodate.) Do NOT forget to add water to the tree stand once the tree is in place. And, if your tree IS truly fresh, you will need to add water every day, as it gets sucked up by the tree.
When placing the tree, choose a spot carefully. While those Christmas cards with the pictures of a lit Christmas tree beside a lit fireplace might look cozy, there is nothing cozy about fleeing for your lives! Although it would seem to go without saying, look around carefully, and make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights. That means checking distance from the ceiling, as well. And don’t place it flush with curtains. If there IS a mishap, there’s no need to provide ready kindling to the fire. And be sure that the tree is not blocking any exits to your house, or blocking off sections of it.
When it comes to decorating the tree, don’t cheap out on the lights. And be sure to read the box. There are lights for indoor use, and lights for outdoor use. You might even want to be REALLY consumer-wise and do some research into the name brand to make sure it meets safety requirements. Never leave lights on when going to bed or leaving the house, despite how pretty it might look from outside the window. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. And, despite how tempting it might be or how much easier it would make it to string them, NEVER connect more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. This is a major cause of sparks and fires. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
While many people like to prolong the Christmas season, a live tree is NOT a good way to do that. As soon as you see needles starting to drop off of the tree, it’s time to bid it goodbye. Let’s face it . . . . you specifically put dried logs into your fireplace when you want to light a fire, don’t you? A dried out Christmas tree is basically a fire waiting to happen. Dried-out trees are a serious fire danger, and should not be left in the home, in your garage, or right outside against the home. Check local recycling centers to examine your options before you ever even set up your tree, and be sure to plan accordingly. And clean up all dried needles from your home right away . . . . or at least do the best you can. You will, no doubt, find some wayward Christmas tree needles stuck in your socks when you come downstairs for Easter. Consider it part of the Christmas “magic.”
Of course, there’s always another way to insure safety. A good artificial tree comes pre-lit, and looks wonderful year after year. And it can do more than just prevent fires. It can prevent tree sap rash on your cut-up hands from stringing lights, pine needles jabbing into your feet, emotional break-down from the unavoidable family arguments about how to decorate, and family dogs from lifting a leg to deposit their own Christmas “magic” on the presents beneath the tree. Just sayin.’