SYLACAUGA, Ala. – It’s finally the time of year to decorate for Christmas and put up the tree. As you decorate, make sure to use proper Christmas tree safety so the tree will not catch on fire.

Christmas tree fires are not very common, but when they occur, they are more likely to be serious and deadly. When choosing a tree, pick one with green needles that do not fall off when touched to make sure it is not too dry. The NFPA suggests cutting two inches off the tree before placing it in the stand and making sure it is at least three feet away from any heat source such as a fireplace, candle, or space heater. When placing the tree, make sure it is not blocking any exits or doorways, and water the tree daily.

When decorating the tree, use the correct lights; some lights are designed specifically for indoor or outdoor use. If any lights have worn or broken cords or bulbs, replace them. Before connecting the strands of lights, read the manufacturer warning for how many can be connected. Always turn off the lights before leaving your house or going to sleep.

Many people delay in taking their tree down after Christmas, but the NFPA advises to get rid of it as soon as possible after Christmas. The longer it stays up, the more it dries out, and dried-out trees are a fire hazard. Find a recycling station in your community to dispose of your tree after Christmas.

U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 210 home fires a year starting from Christmas trees. In 2010-2014, these fires caused six deaths, 16 injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage. As mentioned, Christmas tree fires can be much more serious due to how fast the fire spreads. One in every 34 Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to only one in 142 total fires on average. Four out of five of these fires occurred in December or January. In one quarter of Christmas tree fires, and 80% of deaths from these fires, the tree was located too close to a heat source, such as a candle.

Candles caused 3% of home fires, 3% of home fire deaths, 6% of home fire injuries, and 5% of direct property damage in home fires during 2009-2013. December is the peak time for home fires caused by candles at 11% compared to 4% the rest of the year. Two of the top days for home candle fires are on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Be sure to keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything flammable, and three feet away from your Christmas tree.

To avoid a fire from an open flame candle being too close to something such as your Christmas tree, many people have switched to wax warmers. These are scented wax cubes placed in a decorative warmer, which looks like a candle holder. A bulb is placed under the wax cube to warm it and release the scent. Wax warmers leave less mess and less worry for a fire starting. While it is true there is not an open flame, fires can still be started by a wax warmer from overheating, electrical wire damage, tripping over the cord, or electrocution.. Be sure to use proper care and instructions when using either candles or wax warmers.

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