Tips to prevent Christmas trees from catching fire during the holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and that means many are looking for the perfect Christmas tree. But there are some things to keep in mind when picking a tree to make sure loved ones are not in any danger.

Christmas trees are a symbol of holiday celebration across the country. But if precautions are not taken, they can pose a fire hazard.

For decades, Robert Heath has been selling Christmas trees in Southwest Florida.

“We have never had a bad experience in 50 years,” Heath said.

Heath said he takes special care to ensure the trees he sells are the freshest and the safest for his customers.

“With every tree we sell, it never leaves here without someone giving it a fresh cut,” Heath said. “And, of course, a proper stand is very important … Safety first, I’d never want anybody hurt.”

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) said picking a fresh tree is the first step toward fire safety with Christmas tree selection.

“You can tell by feeling the needles that they’re still alive and growing,” said Libby Simon-Holschbach, who was shopping for a Christmas tree.

According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 200 fires started by Christmas trees at home every year.

Although Christmas tree fires are rare, when they happen, they can be serious. But they can be avoided as well. The best way to avoid them is keeping a tree freshly watered and also keeping them away from heat sources.

“You don’t put them in front of a sunny window. You don’t put them in front of a fireplace,” Heath said. “Never let the tree run out of water because, if it does run out of water, it will scab over, and it won’t take anymore water after that.”

“You can tell when the tree is drying out, and you just make sure that you keep watering it, and it stays nice and vibrant,” Simon-Holschbach said.

NFPA also recommends taking precautions when lighting a tree. Only lights with a label of a recognized testing lab should be used. That will help determine whether they are for indoor or outdoor use. Replace any string of lights with broken cords or loose bulbs, and be sure to turn Christmas lights off before leaving home or going to bed.

Further steps and precautions can be taken after Christmas as well to prevent a tree from catching fire. Make sure dried-out leaves are not left inside a home or building, leaning against a structure or in a garage. Those can all be fire hazards.

“It’s like anything,” Heath said. “If you handle them properly, there’s no problem.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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