OHIO VALLEY — As people in the tri-county area finish their last bites of Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, thoughts turn to traditional images of beautifully decorated trees, lights strung from the eaves and candles in the windows.
While these lights and trees set pretty and memorable holiday scenes, they can also become fire and safety hazards.
Christmas tree fires, while rare, are unusually deadly. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one person on average dies in every nine house fires that start with a Christmas tree. In comparison, one person on average dies in every 75 house fires that start elsewhere in the home. Taking a few simple precautions can help to reduce this terrible statistic. When purchasing an artificial tree, look for a “Fire Resistant” label. When purchasing a live or cut tree, check for freshness. Make sure the needles are soft and don’t fall off. A bounce test prior to purchase is recommended. Bounce the tree a couple of times on the ground. If lots of needles fall off, that tree is not fresh and should not be brought into your home. Live trees need water, and lots of it. Submerge a freshly trimmed trunk right away before sap seals the tree’s natural wicking system. Add water and check daily. Dry trees burn in a matter of seconds. Only use non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Never use lighted candles on or near a tree or other evergreens. Keep lit candles away from fabrics, such as draperies or tablecloth. And never block your escape routes with Christmas trees or other decorations. Holiday lights sets should each be checked for damaged sockets or wires. Discard any bad sets of lights. Only lights that carry a “UL Approved” label or sticker should be used. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning the maximum number of light sets that can be connected together and how the lights should be used — indoor lights inside, outdoor lights outside, for example. Minimize the number of extension cords and never overload your power outlets. When possible, use circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs. Finally, remove live trees from your home as soon as possible. Most Christmas tree fires occur on or after New Year’s Day.
Take a moment to think about smoke alarms this holiday season. Smoke alarms make fantastic gifts for students or young people moving into their first home or apartment or the elderly who may not have one installed in their home. While you are decorating, take a moment to check your own smoke alarms. Replace batteries if you haven’t already done so,
and replace any smoke alarms that are 10 years or older.