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Don't Deck the Halls With Fire

Here are the signs that your Christmas tree is too dry—and possibly a fire hazard.

Twinkling lights, candles, Christmas trees and other holiday decorations can be dangerous as well as festive. But how will you know?

The San Diego County Office of Emergency Services has a few warning signs:

Trees

  • "If you’re heading to the Christmas tree lot soon, look for a healthy, green tree. Needles should not break easily, and the trunk should be a bit sticky to the touch."
  • "To make sure the tree is not too dry, pick it up and tap it on the ground a few times. If a bunch of needles fall off, it’s probably dried out and old. Pick a different one."
  • "To keep it as moist as possible, the base should be cut at an angle, and the tree should be in a stand you keep filled with water."
  • "Make sure you place [the tree] away from fireplaces or heat vents that can dry it out. And of course, place the tree so it doesn’t block any exits. Same goes for that six-foot plastic Frosty the Snowman, and any other decorations."

County officials also warn that cut, live trees get dry after a couple of weeks on display so you may want to consider that when you decide when to get your tree.

Lights and Candles

Tips from the U.S. Fire Administration

  • "Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory."
  • "Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch."
  • "Consider using battery-operated flameless candles."
  • "Make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn, and make sure they are out of reach of children and pets. Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning."
  • "Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches."

Also, check out this video San Diego firefighters did for Patch, showing their tips for candle safety.

How do you keep your tree green and healthy longer?

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