Homeowners should guard against Christmas tree fires

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

Whether you call your tree a holiday or Christmas tree, it’s important to recognize any live tree could be hazardous to your family if not treated with care and precaution.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Christmas trees account for 400 fires each year, resulting in 10 deaths, over 80 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage. Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases. The following tips are from the U.S. Fire Administration.

n Selecting a tree for Christmas: Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle 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 has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

n Caring for your tree: Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

n Disposing of your tree: Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.