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In most households that celebrate Christmas, the Christmas tree is the centerpiece of the festivities. As beautiful as they are and fun to decorate, it is paramount that safety measures be taken. The lights you enjoy this holiday season should be on the on the tree and not on the top of a fire truck or ambulance.

A National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report issued in 2015, stated that U.S. fire departments responded to more than 200 home structure fires annually between 2009 and 2013 in which Christmas trees were the first item to catch on fire . Each year, fires occurring during the holiday season injure 2,600 individuals and cause over $930 million in damage, according to the United States Fire Administration.

The American Christmas Tree Association notes that fresh trees are less likely to catch fire. They suggest selecting a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don’t break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn’t shed needles readily.

General Decorating

When decorating follow these tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Arizona power and water supplier, SRP.

The Tree

  • For a live tree, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.
  • Water the tree daily and remove it from your home when it is dry.
  • Place the tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources, making certain not to block doorways.
  • If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire-resistant.”
  • Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children and pets can reach them.

Lights, Cords and Outlets

  • Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors.
  • Don’t connect lights while adjusting them on a tree or house. Inspect lights and plug them together before hanging.
  • Replace light sets that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Follow the package directions on the number of light sets that can be plugged into one socket
  • Never nail, tack, or stress wiring when hanging lights.
  • Buy LED holiday lights. They not only last longer, but they don’t get hot to the touch, so they’re a lot safer. If you’re shopping for LED holiday lights, be sure to visit the SRP Marketplace.
  • Turn off all lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Indoors or out, lights should have the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
  • Hook up lighting using a three-prong grounded extension cord that also has the UL label.
  • Don’t let light bulbs rest on tree needles and branches. Use a clip or twist-tie to keep bulbs upright.
  • Don’t overload outlets or extension cords.
  • Keep cords and plugs out of water, including puddles and snow and away from metal objects.
  • Uncoil extension cords completely before using and be sure to place them away from heat sources and bulbs.
  • Never place cords under rugs and doors or through windows where they might be pinched or become worn.

Don’t Be Left Hanging

Before you begin hanging lights, think safety first. The CPSC reports that 12,000 to 15,000 people visit the emergency room every holiday season as a result of accidents related to decorating. Most ladder accidents occur because of improper use. Slow down and ensure the ladder is stable before you start climbing. For proper stability, your extension ladder should be at a 75-degree angle; for every four feet of height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall. For example, the bottom of a 20-foot ladder should be five feet away from the wall.

Discarding the Tree

The NFPA, recommends trees (even well-hydrated) should be taken down within four weeks of being brought into the home or before that if it is dropping needles. If you decorated a real tree right after Thanksgiving, it should be discarded the week after Christmas, not New Year’s Day. This is because by the end of the holiday season, Christmas trees are extremely dry, and present a heightened fire hazard.

When carrying the tree to the curb, making sure not to obstruct any roads or sidewalks. Take the tree out as close to pick up as possible, so as not to tempt arsonists.

Tree Recycling

Many municipalities offer Christmas tree drop-off areas which are often set up near recycling centers or community parks. From there, trees are typically sent through a chipper to be used as mulch for parks and green areas. Some cities also have designated Christmas tree pickup days and times. Add those dates to your calendar.

Keep your tree and recycle it for home use. Chop it into logs for fireplace or firepit fuel. “Christmas trees are perfectly fine for kindling,” said Rebecca Derendal, owner, Arizona Chimney & Air Ducts , a Rosie-Certified Partner. The logs will need to be stripped of all the needles. Make sure the wood lasts long enough to be seasoned, meaning it has dried out, Derendal recommended. The logs will likely not be ready to burn until the following season. There are moisture meters available online which can be used to monitor the wood’s progress.

The tree can also be used as mulch for the garden. Remove the branches and shake off the dead needles to prepare for mulching. For both mulch and firewood use, remove all ornaments, garland, hooks, and lights first.

For a DIY project, cut the trunk and make coasters and trivets. Sand down the surfaces, stain, and seal them before using to prevent sap from leaking. You can also use them as garden décor and edging walkways.

Holiday Safety Away from Home

It is important to note that stepping up your holiday safety away from home is just as important. Be aware when you are out and about. Pick parking spots that are well-lit and close to stores where you will be shopping. Lock your doors. Store purchases out of sight in the trunk or tucked under dark-colored blankets.

You have probably been approached in a parking lot with the “I can’t afford to buy gifts for my kids,” or “My pregnant wife and I are out of gas.” The parking lot is not the place to rummage through your bag or pull out your wallet to extend goodwill. If you do not feel safe walking to your car, ask a police officer or security guard to escort you.

Play it safe and you and your family can enjoy the holidays to their fullest extent.


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