It’s that time of year again: Time to add a Christmas tree to your holiday decor. Whether you already have your tree up and decorated or are waiting to find the perfect pine closer to Christmas, it’s officially the season to fill your home with cheer!
With everyone thinking about wish lists, holiday shopping and giving to the less fortunate, it’s easy to overlook the fact that most home fires occur in December – especially right around Christmas time. Christmas trees start an average of 230 fires yearly, and these fires cause $18.3 million in property damage.
But holiday tree fires are easy to avoid. There are steps you can take to protect yourself – and your home – while still enjoying the fresh scent of pine for the holidays. So grab a cup of hot cocoa and read up on how to properly select, maintain and dispose of a real Christmas tree.
Tree type: The best type of tree for avoiding fires is a flame retardant or artificial tree. But, if you want a live tree for the holidays, make sure to select a fresh tree. A dry tree can go up in flames in a matter of seconds. It’s much harder for a fresh tree to catch fire.
Branch test: To check the freshness of a live tree, take hold of one of the branches about six inches from the tip, and pull your hand toward you, allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. The needles should adhere to the branch and not fall off in your hand.
Trunk test: Next, bump the base of the tree lightly against the ground a few times. If a large number of outside needles fall off, you most likely have chosen a dry tree; so keep looking. When you find a tree where only a few needles drop off, the tree is fresh enough to stay in your home through the holidays.
The aroma: Smell your tree! The tree should be very fragrant and have a bright green color. Any dullness in color or smell means the tree isn’t fresh enough to be safe in your home.
Tree type: Your newly selected Christmas tree will last longer and look better if it’s cared for properly. Here’s what you need to keep in mind while decorating and caring for your new tree:
Place: The placement of any Christmas tree – live or fake – is very important. Find a place away from candles and 3 feet from any heat sources in your home.
Hydration: Once you’ve found the perfect place for your tree, put a live tree in cold water immediately. Clean, cold water is the only requirement when it comes to maintaining freshness. Keep your tree stand filled with water at all times. Never let a live tree go without water; it will dry very quickly, even without water for a short period. A fresh tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 23 hours after being cut!
Safety: Next, check your smoke alarms. The home smoke alarm is credited as the most significant fire prevention tool in the last part of the 20th century, so make sure you’re using this fantastic device and that it’s always in working order.
Decoration: Once you’ve selected a safe place for your tree and checked the surrounding area, you’re ready for decorations! Look over the decorations for any hazards, and purchase new sets of lights if your lights are old, frayed or broken, which can easily cause a fire.
Monitor: Make a habit of monitoring your tree for dryness every day. Any sign of needle loss could be an indication that the tree is dry and should be removed from the house immediately. If you suspect your tree is dry, use the tips outlined above to check for freshness again and to make sure your tree hasn’t turned into a fire hazard.
Turn out the lights: Once your tree is up and looking beautifully fresh and decorated, remember to turn off the lights when you’re leaving the house – even if you go outside for a few minutes. You should never leave Christmas tree lights on when you aren’t home, and always turn the lights off before you go to bed. Make turning off the lights part of your daily and nightly routine.
Enjoy: Now, enjoy your tree! Fill the base up with presents and relish in the scent and ambiance it brings to your home this holiday season.
A tree that is well-maintained will stay fresh for about a month in your home. You should never keep a live Christmas tree in your home for more than 35 days after it’s cut. After about a month, it will have dried out to the point of becoming a fire hazard.
If you’re buying a precut tree, make sure to ask when it was harvested so you know the date it should be removed from your home.
Un-decorate: Disposing of a live tree can be as much of a family tradition as selecting it. Get the entire family involved, make some hot apple cider, and remove all the lights and decorations from the tree.
Don’t burn: Most Christmas trees contain a lot of sap, which can create chimney fires. So never burn a Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Instead, recycle or dispose of your tree safely.
Curbside disposal: Almost every city has a curbside tree pick-up. One tip when trying to find the day of your local pick-up is to search for both “Christmas tree” and “Holiday tree,” since many areas now refer to them both ways. A good rule of thumb: Most tree pick-ups are two weeks after Christmas.
Non-profit disposal: Many non-profits also offer pick-up services. Some Boy Scout troops provide a pick-up for a small donation (often $5). A little donation goes a long way, and it’s always a good idea to donate back to your local organizations.
Cutting the tree yourself: If you miss your local collection period, you also have the option of cutting up the tree yourself. It should be cut so that it fits into your green yard waste container for regular pick-up.
Now that you know the necessary safety steps for selecting, maintaining and disposing of a live Christmas tree, enjoy your time with friends and family knowing you’ve taken the steps necessary to help protect your home from fires.
Madison Mutual wishes you a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with love, peace and joy.