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Keep Your Tree from Becoming a Fire Hazard

Without proper care, a Christmas tree can turn into the perfect kindling. Borough and township fire chiefs offer tips to stay safe.

Fire safety is important all year long, but during the holidays, a dry tree, lights or other decorations can become a real fire danger.

Jim Pignatello, Jr., the chief of the Chatham Township Fire Department, said, "A real tree can pose a fire hazard if not properly placed or cared for. Each year, more than 400 residential fires involve Christmas trees, and approximately 40 people die and 100 people are injured nationwide from these fires."

Pignatello offered the following tips to residents to keep your family's Christmas trees from going up in flames:

  • Place your tree away from heat sources such as from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources.
  • Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways.
  • Use only non-combustible decorations.
  • Keep the base of live trees in water and check it daily.
  • Turn lights off when the tree is unattended.
  • Be sure to remove live trees soon after the holiday before needles get too dry.

With a dry tree, just using the wrong set of lights can make a difference in staying safe. Here are some safety tips when it comes to your Christmas lights:

  • Only use indoor lights indoors (and outdoor lights only outdoors). Look for the UL label.
  • Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Replace or repair any damaged light sets.
  • Use quality extension cords and do not overload them. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid any tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Never place lighted candles on a tree or near any flammable materials.

The U.S. Fire Administration has tips to offer, which Pignatello and Chatham Borough Fire Chief Peter Glogolich both endorse. These tips include:

  • Be sure to keep water in the tree stand at all times.
  • Be careful not to smoke or flick cigarette or cigar ashes near the tree.
  • Keep the tree up for two weeks at most.

For other tips on how to keep your tree from becoming a danger, click here.

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