Each year between Thanksgiving and the New Years holidays, approximately 12,000 individuals are treated in emergency rooms throughout the United States due to holiday decorating-related incidents. Incidents of dried Christmas trees catching fire result in 17 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage each year. On average, 150 people die as a result of candle-related fires in homes, totaling $385 million in property damage. These deaths, injuries and property losses may be avoided if consumers follow these simple steps regarding trees and decorations:
1. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure that it is labeled “Fire Resistant.” If purchasing a live tree, check for signs of freshness; a fresh tree should be green, not dropping needles, needles should be firmly attached to the stem and not easily broken. The trunk of the tree should have sticky resin near the bottom.
2. If you set up your tree inside your home, be sure it is away from sources of heat, such as fireplaces, vents and radiators. Monitor the water levels in the tree stand, replacing the water as needed. Do not place the tree in a doorway or traffic area. Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim your tree, such as tinsel or artificial icicles made of plastic.
3. In homes where children are present, take care to select unbreakable tree ornaments and decorations. Decorations with small parts or those that resemble candy or food may tempt children to swallow, inhale or eat them.
4. Purchase indoor and outdoor lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally – recognized testing laboratory. Check all tree lights before hanging them on your tree to be sure all bulbs work, and there are no broken sockets, loose connections or frayed wires. Outdoor lights should be certified for outdoor use and should be strung through hooks or insulated staples, not nailed or tacked. Plug outdoor lights into circuits with ground fault interrupters or a protected receptacle to avoid a shock. Extension cords should be rated for the intended use.
5. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree as the tree may become charged with electricity from faulty lights. A person touching the tree could be electrocuted.
6. To avoid fires, turn off all holiday lights when leaving your home or when going to bed.
7. If you decorate with candles, make sure that burning candles are within sight. Never burn candles near a tree or other evergreens. Keep candles on a flat, stable, heat-resistant surface where children and pets cannot knock them over. Extinguish candles when leaving the house or going to bed.
Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!