JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas --
The Christmas season can be the most joyous of times, but it can also be deadly.
Approximately 400 fires occur annually involving Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, resulting in more than a dozen deaths, injuries and more than $10 million in property loss and damage.
Short-circuiting tree lights are cited as the leading cause, while more than a third of home fires are started by candles. Joint Base San Antonio-Fire Emergency Services and NFPA offer a variety of safety tips for a safe holiday season.
Picking the tree
· Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that don’t fall off when touched.
Placing the tree
· Before placing the tree in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk.
· Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
· Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
· Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
Lighting the tree
· Use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
· Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
· Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
· Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
· Nearly one of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.
· Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious.
· A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every four of the fires.
· More than a third of home decorations fires started by candles.
· Forty two percent of decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source.
· Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
· Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
· Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
· Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
· Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
· Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
· Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
· Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
· Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
· Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
· Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
· Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
Before heading out or to bed
· Blow out lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
· Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
· Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.
· Check with your local community to find a recycling program.
· Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
For more information about winter holiday safety, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at http://www.nfpa.org/education.