Holiday tree safety tips

Special to Civitas Media

A fire on any day seems bad, but a fire during the holiday season seem to be the worst.

National estimates of reported home structure fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) annual fire department experience survey show that in 2009-2013, Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an annual average of seven civilian fire deaths, 19 civilian fire injuries and $17.5 million in direct property damage.

On average, one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires.

Harlan County Emergency Management is providing residents holiday tree safety tips. Here’s how to keep your tree green, and your presents safe:

• When you buy your tree, have the vendor make a fresh cut an inch from the trunk bottom; this will help the tree absorb water.

• If you buy your tree early and keep it outside, store it away from wind and sun, and keep the trunk bottom in a bucket of water.

• Make sure your lights are safe. If you need outdoor lights, make sure the ones you buy are meant for outdoor use. Make sure you lights carry certification from a testing laboratory.

• Do not use electric lights on a metal tree.

• Discard any strings of lights that are frayed or broken – holiday lights are cheap.

• Unplug your tree before you leave or go to bed.

• Do not buy a tree that is dry and dropping needles. To check for freshness, loosely grip the end of a branch and pull your hand over it. Only a few needles should fall off.

• Make sure your tree stand hold plenty of water, and do not let it run out.

• If your tree seems wobbly, center it in the stand more securely and redo the bolts or screws. If your tree stand is cheap, buy a larger, stronger one.

• If you buy an artificial tree make sure it is fire-retardant.

• Keep your tree at least three feet from furnaces, radiators and fireplaces.

• Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.

• When the holidays are over or when the tree starts to drop needles, dispose of it. Do not leave it in your house or put it in your garage.

• Keep a close eye on small children when they are around the tree; many small decorations and ornaments are sharp, breakable and can be swallowed.

Special to Civitas Media

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