The holidays can be a time to appreciate the ones you love, and with the hustle and bustle of the season, safety can easily become an oversight. However, by taking the time to make sure that your loved ones are safe while in your home, you will help to ensure that your holiday season goes off without a hitch.
Selecting a tree for the holidays: Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If a lot of needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, and has probably dried out; this is a fire hazard.
Caring for your tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
Disposing of your tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service. The City of Tumwater provides a free tree recycling collection service each January. Contact Tumwater Public Works at (360) 754-4150 or browse to Holiday Tree Recycling for more information.
- Maintain your holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. The lights will be engraved with "UL Tested".
- Do not overload electrical outlets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
- Do not leave holiday lights on unattended!
- Use only nonflammable decorations. All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant, and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
- Don’t block exits. Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit-way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit-way puts you, and your family, at risk.
- Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace. Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.
- Use candles safely. Make sure candles are in stable holders, and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.
- Never put lit candles on a tree. Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.