In 2020, many families decided to forego their family holiday celebrations in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19. This year, with the vaccine available, more families have decided to get together. But since we skipped last year, our skills might be a little rusty! Hmmm, how long do I cook my turkey? And where did I store all that leftover 2019 gift wrap?
Fire safety is another area where we might need a refresher course. Holiday lights and Christmas trees are so festive, but we need to take precautions. Let’s look at some tips from the National Fire Protection Association:
“Christmas trees are very flammable,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). “Trees dry out the longer they remain in the home, and can be consumed by fire in a matter of seconds.” Carli says that while all trees can burn, dry ones can be engulfed by flames significantly more quickly.
NFPA statistics indicate that nearly one-third of home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January. Although these fires are not common, they are much more likely to be serious when they do occur. On average, one of every 52 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared with an average of one death per 135 total reported home structure fires.
Carli reports that wanting to prolong the festive spirit, people are tempted to leave up their trees and other greenery long after the last of the gifts have been opened. But, she warns, “Christmas trees are combustible items that become increasingly flammable as they continue to dry out. The longer you keep one in your home, the more of a fire hazard it becomes.”
This certainly isn’t the best way to preserve the spirit of the season! “We hope that by educating people about the extreme fire hazards, people will be prompted to remove their trees in a timely manner, giving their families the gift of fire safety as the season winds down,” says Carli.
We should not only remove the tree in a timely fashion, but also safely. The NFPA recommends using your community’s recycling program for tree disposal, if available. Trees should not be put in the garage or left outside.
The NFPA also offers tips on removing lighting and decorations from trees to ensure they are taken down safely this year and put away in the right condition for Christmas 2022:
Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire.
As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.
Store electrical decorations in a dry place, away from children and pets, where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.