Decorating homes and businesses with holiday lights and decorations is a long-standing tradition around holidays. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase the chances of fire.
Based on National Fire Protection Association and U.S. Fire Administration data, an estimated 230 home fires involving Christmas trees and 150 home fires involving decorative lighting occur each year, resulting in millions of dollars in direct property damage and, in some cases, causing deaths.
The Midland Fire Department offers the following advice for picking, placing, and lighting your tree, decorations, and holiday lights:
• If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.
• Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. Needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground; if many needles fall off, the tree is older and has most likely dried out, which is a fire hazard.
• Make sure the tree is watered daily. Well-watered trees are not a problem, but a dry and neglected tree can be.
• Avoid placing your tree close to a heat source such as a fireplace or heating vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to more easily ignite by heat, flame, or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Don’t put up your live tree too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
• Before putting up holiday lights, inspect them for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
• Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into an outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires; they should not be warm to the touch.
• All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and kept away from heating vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
• Make sure candles are in stable holders, and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning.
• Ensure that your Christmas tree or holiday decorations do not block exits. In the event of fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit puts you and your family at risk.
Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and the ever-popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy. Learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in your home. Help ensure that you have a fire-safe holiday season.
For more information, call the Midland Fire Department at 989-837-3410, e-mail Midland’s Fire Marshal Josh Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org, like Midland Fire Department on Facebook or visit www.cityofmidlandmi.gov/fire.