While some will opt for the convenience of a pre-lit faux tree this Christmas, others will revel in the delight of a fresh pine, fir or spruce. Amid all the holiday cheer, however, it’s important to understand the fire risk posed by these festive evergreens and the decor surrounding them.

Lights, candles and holiday trinkets should be thought of as fire hazards, especially when they’re near something as flammable as a tree.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 200 home fires each year start with a Christmas tree, but there is something homeowners can do to mitigate damage — water the tree.

The NFPA filmed a video showing the difference between a fire starting on a watered tree versus a dry tree. While the watered tree barely smolders, the dry tree is fully engulfed in flames in less than 20 seconds. By the one-minute mark, the fire has spread to other areas of the room, destroying everything in its path.

“Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious,” noted NFPA in an accompanying blog post. “Carefully decorating your home can help make your holidays safer.”

Here are 10 ways NFPA says homeowners can prevent decoration fires:

  • “Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2″ from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.”

Email Marian McPherson.

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