Practice safety when

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 24, 2000

decorating for the holidays


Staff Writer

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Nov. 23, 2000 10 PM

Holidays are supposed to be happy and to ensure it stays that way, there are some safety tips each family should follow.

Each year, fires during the holiday season cause injury to 2,000 people and $500 million in damages, according to the United States Fire Administration.

Everyone knows Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a tree. And, if you choose to get the green, fragrant real one, Christmas tree growers will tell you to be careful.

When picking a tree, needles should be green and hard to pull back from the branches and needles should not break. The trunk should be sticky to the touch.

Trees should be stored in a cool, sheltered place until you’re ready to set it up. Then, cut about one inch off the butt end to open the tree stem, which allows water intake. Place the tree in a stand that will hold three liters of water and top it off each day. If water drops below the end of the trunk, the stem could reseal itself, making it necessary to make a fresh cut.

Trees should be kept away from all sources of heat, such as radiators, furnace ducts, television sets, fireplaces and windows with direct exposure to the sun. They should also be removed within two weeks days because even the freshest tree will begin to dry out in a heated building.

While the decorations are up, make sure all electric lights and connections are in good working order and turn lights off when going to bed or leaving home. And, never use lighted candles on or near a Christmas tree.

Also, be sure not to overload electrical outlets. For example, don’t link more than three strands of lights.

The best protection for a tree is moisture. With the right amount of water, a fresh tree is naturally fire retardant (delays the chemical reaction causing a fire).

But, just in case, every home should have working smoke alarms on every level. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and kept clean and powered by fresh batteries at all times.

Johnny Gibson of the Pike County Firefighters Association said smoke detectors can truly be lifesavers.

He said a new problem is people not checking hard-wired smoke detectors that are permanently installed in homes.

Although Christmas is a time during which fire hazards are obvious, citizens should be concerned about fires all year.

"We need to prevent fires 12 months of the year," Gibson said.

Once the holidays are over, taking down the tree is just as important as keeping it fresh.

When disposing of the tree, do not put branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. The best thing to do is either take it to a recycling center or have it hauled away by the community pickup service.

But, it isn’t only trees that can be dangerous.

If put in a fire, wrapping paper can throw off sparks and produce a chemical buildup that could cause an explosion.

Candles should always be used in a stable holder and placed where they can not easily be knocked over and cause a fire.

Firefighters want everyone to use common sense to ensure the holiday season is filled with happy moments that become wonderful memories.