Christmas tree safety tips

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Christmas trees went up earlier this year, extending the trees’ inside display time to six weeks or more by the time Christmas Day arrives.

Because of the extended display time it actually increases the potential for live Christmas trees to become a fire hazard.

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AAA urges everyone to prioritize safety when transporting a Christmas tree and preventing it from becoming a fire hazard.

According to the American Red Cross, home fires can happen at any time, but they generally increase during the fall and winter, with December and January being the peak months.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that although Christmas tree fires are rare, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious:

  • Between 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees.
  • These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
  • On average, one of every 52 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44 percent of home Christmas tree fires.
  • Two of every five (39 percent) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room.
  • In one-quarter (25 percent) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.

“No one wants to have their holiday ruined by a house fire that could have been prevented,” said Weaver Hawkins.  “While you may look at your tree as the centerpiece of your holiday decorations, you must treat it as a potential fire danger and take steps to protect your family and your home.”

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers the following tips to reduce the risk of a house fire this Christmas:

  • Make sure the Christmas tree is at least three feet away from any heat source (fireplace, radiator, candles, heat vents, or lights).
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to your tree daily.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Never use lit candles to light the tree.
  • Always turn off the lights on the tree before going to bed or leaving

AAA notes that transporting a real Christmas tree is easy as long as you have the tools and follow these simple tips:

  • If you or anyone from your family has tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-related symptoms, do not visit a tree lot.
  • Call the lot ahead of time. Ask about their policies for visiting. It is possible they may have reduced operating hours or are limiting the amount of people who can visit the lot at one time. It is also a good idea to ask when they are slow and plan to visit then, when crowds may be smaller.
  • Wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Although most lots are located outside, it is recommended to take all necessary precautions while shopping.
  • Use the right vehicle. It’s best to transport a Christmas tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack. However, if you do not have a roof rack, use the bed of a pickup truck or an SUV, van or minivan that can fit the tree inside with all doors closed.
  • Bring proper tools. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle’s roof rack. Avoid the lightweight twine offered by many tree lots. Bring an old blanket and gloves.
  • Protect the tree―and your vehicle. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine. Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish.
  • Point the tree trunk towards the front. Always place the tree on a roof rack or in a pickup bed with the bottom of the trunk facing the front of the vehicle.
  • Tie it down. Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top. At the bottom, use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop around the trunk above a lower branch, to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement. The center and top tie downs should be installed in a similar manner.
  • Give it the tug test. Before you leave the lot, give the tree several strong tugs from various directions to make sure it is secured in place and will not blow away.
  • Drive slowly and easily. Take the back roads, if possible. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage your Christmas tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.