The holiday season is in full swing! Unfortunately, more decorations means more danger: according to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly half of all fires during the holiday season are caused by poorly placed decorations.
To ensure a happy (and safe) holiday, here are some tips — courtesy of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) — to follow before you set up that Christmas tree and adorn your home with festive lights.
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Check the tree for dryness while at the seller’s lot. Shake the trunk above a light-colored surface and watch for falling needles; if too many dry needles fall, choose a fresher tree. A locally grown tree from New York may be fresher than one brought in from out of state.
Avoid trees with an artificial-looking green tint on the branches or trunk. These may have been spray-painted to improve their appearance. The paint used may be combustible and could be hazardous. When in doubt, ask the seller if her or she sells painted trees.
Ask the merchant saw off an inch or two from the trunk to help keep the tree fresh longer at home. If your tree is left outside, placing the trunk in a bucket of water will help keep it fresh.
When disposing of a tree, do not leave it inside a home or building, and do not place it against the exterior of a home or building. In both cases, the tree is likely dried out and thus poses an increased fire hazard.
Choose decorations made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials. Look for these designations on the product’s packaging.
Purchase lights and electrical decorations stamped with the name or symbol of an independent testing lab (example: “UL” or “Underwriters’ Laboratories”), and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.
Carefully inspect new and previously used light strands. Look for frayed cables, and replace any damaged or missing bulbs before plugging in.
Do not overload extension cords, power strips, and electrical outlets. When using power cords to illuminate outdoor displays, ensure that they are designated for external or outdoor use only. Never use power cords that are meant for indoor use. This information is usually indicated on the product’s packaging.
Turn off lights overnight. (If possible, use a timer device to turn off lights automatically.) This not only lessens the risk of fire, but saves on your energy bills.
Keep lighted candles and candelabras at least one foot away from any combustible materials. Do not place candles near window curtains, furniture, wrapped gifts, or anything else that could ignite.
Place candles and candelabras where they cannot be knocked down or tipped/blown over. If possible, keep the candle inside a weighted holder or one with a wide base.
Extinguish a candle before it burns to within two inches of its holder.
Never leave a lighted candle unattended. Extinguish candles before leaving the room. Discourage the use of candles in bedrooms and other areas where you may fall asleep and leave them lit. Store matches and lighters in high places, out of the reach of children, and ideally inside a locked cabinet.
Consider using battery-powered candles instead. If using electrical “plug-in” candles, follow manufacturers’ instructions for best use.
For more information, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s Web site at www.nfpa.org.
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the more than 90,000 volunteer firefighters in New York State.