Christmas is just days away, and the tree that you so carefully picked out for the holiday is standing tall and proud in your home, beautifully decorated with ornaments and lights. But just because the tree is trimmed doesn’t mean it’s no longer in need of recurring attention — have you been watering your grand Christmas display?
If not, you certainly should be. Live Christmas trees, combined with other things that come naturally with both the holiday and winter seasons – like candles, strings of light, dry air and space heaters — become a serious fire hazard that sit perched in our living rooms, usually surrounded by what can amount to kindling for a spreading blaze — countless gifts wrapped in pretty paper and bows.
As unlikely as it may seem that your Christmas tree could just go up in flames, according to the U.S. Fire Administration website, Christmas trees account for 240 fires every year, resulting in 13 deaths and more than $16.7 million in property damage. On a more local level, the Savannah metro area has racked up about two dozen home fires since Dec. 1, according to news reports.
The causes of all those blazes have not yet been determined, and it’s unlikely that a Christmas tree is the culprit in any of the cases. But those local fires serve as a reminder that our homes are already full of fire hazards before we set up a live tree in the middle of the house and drape it with lighting that clogs up our electrical outlets.
In Bryan County, fire officials say they’re on high alert during the holidays for this very reason.
“Because of the holidays and special lighting, we urge residents to please consider turning off Christmas lights at night, and be very careful with candles, presents and heaters,” Bryan County Fire Chief Otis Willis cautioned last week following a fire that destroyed a mobile home in South Bryan.
To help prevent holiday fires, the USFA offers these tips:
• Don’t place your tree close to a heat source.
• Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
• Maintain and inspect your holiday lights each year.
• Don’t overload electrical outlets.
• Don’t leave holiday lights unattended.
• Use only nonflammable decorations.
• Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace.
• Never put lit candles on a tree.
• And of course, make sure your smoke alarms work.
For more tips and information about preventing holiday fires, visit the USFA site at www.usfa.fema.gov. And remember, it only takes one fire to ruin your holiday, so water your tree, uncrowd your outlets and test your smoke alarms — then sit back, relax and enjoy your Christmas.