Like a lot of people, you’re probably not taking down your Christmas tree for a few months. So now’s a good time to learn how to keep it from catching fire and burning your house down.
Between 2013 and 2017, US fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Those fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in direct property damage each year, according to the association.
For anyone celebrating Christmas with a natural or artificial tree, here are some ways to keep it brightly lit while staying safe.
Keep trees away from heat
One tip from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) is to make sure a tree is far away from any heat source. This includes candles, radiators, stoves, fireplaces and open flames.
Smokers should never light up near a Christmas tree.
Make sure you’re using the right lights
A Christmas tree isn’t complete without glittering lights. But always make sure the lights are labeled “UL” or “FM,” meaning they’ve met current safety requirements.
Tree lights should be examined for frayed wires and damaged plugs. While the more the merrier, it’s important not to overload electrical outlets or run wires under carpets or rugs. When positioning the tree, try to put it close to an electrical outlet to minimize the use of extension cords.
If you’re using an artificial metallic tree, only use remote spot or reflective lights, not electric lights.
For candle fanatics, keep them somewhere else. Lighted candles should never be placed on trees.
And before heading to bed or leaving the house, make sure you turn off those lights.
If you’re using a real tree
If you’re using a natural Christmas tree, make sure it’s a fresh one. Once it starts drying up and those needles start falling out, immediately dispose of the tree.
The FDNY recommends that natural trees should be kept for no longer than two weeks.
For natural tree aficionados, it’s important to cut “one inch from base of tree to allow water absorption” before you place it on the stand. Also, always keep the water receptacle under the tree full.
Never block exits
The FDNY urges everyone this holiday season to make sure doors, stairs, hallways, and fire escapes are not blocked by holiday decorations.
Never place decorations or a Christmas tree in front of an exit.