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Deck the Halls Safely this Christmas

Article and audio introduction by Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences

One of the most iconic symbols of the holidays here in Wakulla County and around the world is the Christmas tree. Each year, millions of people set up and decorate their tree with a variety of colorful lights and ornaments. Christmas tree safety should be a primary concern.

Avoid tree pitfalls!

While artificial trees continue to gain popularity for their longevity and durability, many people still prefer a natural tree. Whether that includes cutting down their own tree or choosing the perfect one from a Christmas tree lot, natural trees hold sentimental places in many people’s hearts.

Unfortunately, even this cozy Christmas tradition is not without its pitfalls. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments respond to an average of 160 Christmas tree-related home fires each year. These fires cause an average of 3 deaths, 15 injuries, and over $10 million in direct property damage.

But have no fear! By following a few simple rules for the selection and care of a Christmas tree, the risk of fire can be greatly reduced.

christmas tree with ornament

It is important to decorate and maintain your Christmas tree properly to reduce the risk of fire and injury. (Photo by Marisol Amador, UF/IFAS)

Tree tips

The key feature of a natural Christmas tree other than its pleasing appearance is its freshness. Give the tree a gentle shake or run a hand around a bunch of branches. If a shower of needles falls off, choose a different tree. The needles should also still be green and pliable to the touch. Trees purchased closer to Christmas have probably been sitting in the lot longer and are therefore drier and more at risk of catching on fire.

Put the tree in water immediately upon getting it home and monitor the water in the stand frequently, refilling the reservoir as needed. Keep in mind that as the tree adjusts, it may lose needles, which is why it is important to get the freshest tree possible at the start.

Place the tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, portable heaters, and heater vents. The heat from these sources can dry out the tree and increase the risk of fire. Keep candles and other sources of open flame away from the tree as well.

Do not decorate the tree with old lights that get really hot, flicker for unknown reasons, or have worn or frayed wires. Do not leave lighted trees unattended, including overnight while everyone is asleep. Do not overload extension cords or outlets, especially those near the tree.

When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure to buy one that is flame-retardant. Use the right type of lights for the tree. Lights meant only for outdoor use may not be appropriate for an indoor tree. Read the information on the box carefully and purchase the right kind of lights for the task.

Proper tree disposal

Natural Christmas trees should be disposed of properly. Do not leave them in the house or the garage too long, or lean them against the side of the house. Dried out trees are extremely flammable, so proper disposal is a key component of Christmas tree safety.

After Christmas, remove all lights and decorations from the tree and place the tree on the curb next to the trash containers. Here in Wakulla County, Waste Pro will pick up the tree on regular service days. Artificial trees can be disposed of in this same manner.

Nothing says Christmas like a beautifully decorated tree. However, be sure to enjoy the holidays safely by following a few simple safety rules regarding tree selection, maintenance, and disposal. For more information about Christmas tree safety, please call Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, at 850.926.3931.

Related Articles

Tips for Selection and Care of Cut Christmas Trees (Penn State Extension)
Guidelines for Holiday Decorations (University of Louisville)

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