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The real story about live Christmas trees and holiday decorations - they can be very dangerous!

Chief Tim Keen, of the Prince William County Fire & Rescue, reminds residents that holidays were designed for memorable moments spent with family and friends and not visits to the emergency room.

Make your holiday cherished and memorable by preparing and implementing proper precautions. Although Christmas trees and decorations add to the holiday spirit, they pose a risk of fire and injury to many, especially children.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas trees are a major source of fuel in a fire. Due to reports of a possible Christmas tree shortage, this year, many families were spurred to purchase their trees earlier than planned. Christmas trees are combustible items; the longer a Christmas tree remains in the home it becomes drier and increasingly flammable–therefore more of a fire hazard.

Nearly one-third (29%) of U.S. home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January. Of reported home Christmas tree fires, one of every 52 Christmas tree fires result in a death compared to one death per 135 total reported home fires.

Safety Tips for Christmas Trees
• Natural trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk:

o ALWAYS get a fresh tree and keep it watered.

o DO NOT put the tree within 3 feet of a heat source, i.e., fireplace, space heater, radiator, candles, heat vents or lights.

• NEVER use lit candles to decorate the tree.

• ALWAYS turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

• DO NOT burn tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

• Remove your tree after Christmas or when it is dry.

o Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home, garage or placed outside against the home.

Holiday Lights & Decorative Lighting

• Approximately one-third of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.

o Use lights that are UL approved; some lights are for outdoor use, and some are for indoor use.

o Replace lights that are worn, have broken cords or loose bulb connections.

o Read the manufacturer’s instructions on the number of strand lights to connect.

• Decorative fires are often started due to a form of heat source such as a candle or equipment that were too close to something that could burn.

o More than two of every five decoration fires are too close to a heat source.

o More than one-third (35%) of home decoration fires are started by candles.

 Christmas is the peak day for candle fires.

Holiday Decorations

The Fire Marshal’s Office recommends not using candles as a holiday decoration but use battery operated candles as a substitute for real candles; however, should you choose to use real candles, please take the following precautions:

• Put candles in a sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holder.

• Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that burns.

• NEVER leave a candle unattended.

• Blow out candles after use and before going to bed.

• NEVER leave a lit tree or other decorative lighting displays unattended.

• TURN OFF ALL decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.

• Inspect and replace lights with exposed or frayed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets.

• DO NOT overload extension cords or outlets.

• DO NOT run an electrical cord under a rug.

• Decorate with children in mind. DO NOT put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.

o Keep near each phone the number of the National Poison Center (800) 222-1222.

• Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level and keep lights out of reach.

Holiday Plants – Decorative but Toxic

Holiday plants such as Mistletoe, Holly, Christmas Cactus, Amaryllis, Lilies, Daffodils, Cyclamen, Jerusalem Cherry, English Ivy, and some varieties of Pine may enliven a room, but are poisonous to humans and/or pets.

Poinsettias aren’t toxic but are an irritant that can cause various symptoms of discomfort and illness. When displaying these types of plants, place them in locations that can be admired from a distance yet, unattainable to children and pets.

For more information regarding holiday safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration

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