Decorate trees, use lights safely this holiday season
'Tis the season for holiday decorating.
Keep your tree, lights, and other decorations from becoming fire hazards with these simple fire-safe tips.
Before you buy a natural, cut tree, check it for freshness.
Shedding needles are a sign of a dry tree which can be a serious hazard in your home.
Dry trees can burn like a torch and spread a fire in your home.
Test a tree's freshness by bending a sampling of needles in half.
Fresh needles won' break when bent and won't be easy to pull off the branch.
Once your tree is home, keep it outside until you are ready to decorate it.
Just before bringing it in, cut off the base of the trunk, one to two inches, and place it in a stable base with an ample-sized water reservoir.
Making a fresh cut on the trunk enhances water uptake so your tree will stay fresher longer.
Heavy needle drop is an indication that your tree is getting dry.
If you observe heavy needle drop before you want to remove your tree, limit the amount of time the tree lights are turned on to reduce the risk of fire.
Position your tree away from heat vents, space heaters, and out of exit ways.
Check all lighting before you put it on the tree. Electric arcing of frayed or broken areas on lights, cords, and plugs causes half of Christmas tree fires.
Throw damaged lights away. Do not chance repairing.
No more than three sets of lights should be connected to a single extension cord. Overloaded cords can start a fire.
Keep all lights and electrical cords away from the water in the tree stand, and away from curtains and other flammable materials. Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations. Make sure you unplug all lights before leaving the house or going to sleep.
Use weatherproof lights and electrical cords to decorate outside.
Remove them at the end of the season because they are not designed to withstand prolonged exposure to weather and sunlight.
If you purchase new lights or electrical cords, make sure they bear the initials of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to insure they conform to safety standards.
Candles are especially popular this time of year. Don't use them on your tree or in window sills.
Use electric candles with the UL label instead.
If you burn candles, use fire proof holders and remove decorations or floral arrangements that are in or around the container.
Always extinguish candles before you leave the room, house, or go to sleep.
Do not burn trees, decorations or wrapping paper in your fireplace. A flash fire may result as they can ignite suddenly and can exceed the capacity of your fireplace.
Have a safe and merry holiday season.
Washington Township Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.