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Desert Gardener: Christmas tree tips for a safe holiday season

December 10, 2001|By Keith Mayberry, Imperial County-University of California Cooperative Extension adviser

Most homeowners are starting to buy Christmas trees and hang outdoor lighting. For many people, decorating the Christmas tree is a favorite part of the holiday. The National Safety Council offers some safety tips to make sure a mishap doesn't spoil your holiday season.

>> Christmas trees

l A real tree can add to the spirit of Christmas by filling your home with beauty and the scent of pine. But a real tree can pose a fire hazard. Each year, more than 400 residential fires involve Christmas trees and tragically nearly 40 deaths and 100 injuries result from those fires.

l Try to select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needles of pines and spruces should bend and not break and should be hard to pull off the branches. On fir species, a needle pulled from a fresh tree will snap when bent, much like a fresh carrot. Also, look for a trunk sticky with sap.


l Cut off about 2 inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly.

lStand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways.

l If you use an artificial tree, choose one that has been tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory label.

l Do not burn Christmas trees in the fireplace after the holiday season or a flash fire could result.

>> Tree lights

l Only use indoor lights indoors (and outdoor lights only outdoors). Look for the UL label. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets.

l Also, use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs.

l Turn off all lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.

>> Tree ornaments

l Always use the proper step stool or ladder to reach high places.

l Read labels before you use materials that come in jars, cans and spray cans.

l Never place lighted candles on a tree or near any flammable materials.

l Avoid placing breakable tree ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower branches where small children or pets can reach them.

l Do not hang popcorn chains and candy canes on the tree when small children are present. They may think that other tree ornaments are also edible.

Additional tips (for hanging lights out-of-doors by the Children's Safety Council)

l Use only outdoor lights outside your home. Examine light strings each year and discard worn ones.

l Avoid overloading wall outlets and extension cords. Connect no more than three strands together.

l Unplug light string before replacing a bulb. Review the original package to verify proper wattage and voltage. When connecting light strands, wrap a plastic bag around connections and tie ends with Teflon tape.

>> Christmas gift ideas for safety:

Three smoke detectors and batteries.

One or more quality fire extinguishers.

A flashlight and batteries or light sticks.

A first aid kit.

A carbon monoxide detector.

A mobile phone.

A second floor escape ladder.

An emergency kit containing energy bars, water, battery powered radio, flashlight/light sticks and a first-aid kit packed in a small travel bag.

Have a safe holiday season.

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