Christmas tree safety facts

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on December 14, 2011 with No Comments

Christmas trees were involved in approximately 240 fires annually from 2005-2009, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in an average of 13 deaths and $16.7 million in direct property damage.

Purchasing the Tree

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire-Retardant.” (Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.):

When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness:

A fresh tree is green.

Needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break.

The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.

When tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. A shower of falling needles indicates the tree is too dry.

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Setting Up the Tree

When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators, portable heaters, heater vents, and TV sets.

Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.

Keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly. A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter.

Make another fresh cut in the tree stump if a seal forms at the base. A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if water drops below the base of the tree, preventing the tree from absorbing water later when the tree stand is refilled.

To maximize freshness and minimize fire risk, keep the tree outdoors for a few days in a bucket filled with water before bringing it indoors to decorate.

If the tree seems wobbly, center it in the stand more securely and reposition the bolts or screws. If the stand is too small, buy a larger, stronger stand. The tree stand should hold at least one gallon of water.

Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

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Decorating the Tree: Lights

Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.

Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.

Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.

Use only one extension cord per outlet.

Be careful where you place electrical cords. Don’t run electrical cords under rugs; walking traffic can weaken the insulation and the wires can overheat, increasing the chances for fire or electric shock. Be careful when placing cords behind or beneath furniture; pinched cords can fray and short. Keep animals away from cords to avoid entanglement and chewing.

Keep cords and lights away from a tree’s water supply.

Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.

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Position bulbs so that they aren’t in direct contact with needles or ornaments.

Use colored spotlights above or beside a tree, never fastened onto it! An artificial tree with high metallic content can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted.

Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. These lights with their bright colors and bubbling movement can tempt curious children to break candle-shaped glass, which can cut, and to attempt to drink liquid, which contains a hazardous chemical.

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