Letter to the Editor

Greencastle firefighters urge Christmas tree safety

Monday, December 20, 2021

To the Editor:

The holidays are upon us and celebrating Christmas is right around the corner. While many of us have already proudly displayed our d้cor, it is never too late to talk about fire safety.

House fires already see an increase during the winter months with additional risk for the holidays due to candles, lights and Christmas trees.

The NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) reports 160 tree fires with two fatalities and 12 injured on average per year between 2015-19.

While not common, tree fires are more dangerous than the average accidentally ignited house fire. One in four tree fires are started by heat sources in proximity and one in three are started due to electrical decorations. The ACTA (American Christmas Tree Association) reports Christmas tree fires causing $18 million in property losses a year.

To prevent such a disaster, there are a few things to keep in mind this month.

• All year round assure there are smoke detectors present in your home. Test the detectors monthly and remember to change the batteries twice a year.

• When picking out your natural tree, make sure it is fresh and retaining its needles well. An older tree will be losing needles at a greater pace and will dry out more quickly, making it more of a fire hazard.

• Cut the tree at a 45-degree angle 2 inches from the base and allow it to soak for 24 hours before bringing it inside. If you are choosing an artificial tree, check the packaging for information showing it is a fire resistant/retardant design.

• When choosing a location for your tree do not block any exits and keep three feet away from heat sources, such as space heaters and fireplaces.

• Ensure your natural tree is watered daily, with water constantly at the base.

• When decorating the tree, check any lights and wiring for damage taken during storage. Look for missing or damaged bulbs and frayed wiring.

• Remember not to overload outlets and only run the lights at a maximum of three connected to each other.

• Check to see if the lights are designed for indoor or outdoor use and place appropriately.

• Finally, make sure you are turning off any decorative lights when asleep or away from the home.

With these tips, you can sleep at little sounder for the holidays knowing you’ve practiced good fire safety.

Afterward, when a natural tree has been up for four weeks or becoming dry, it is time to dispose of it.

Even if you use an artificial tree it is recommended to take down the tree and all holiday lights shortly after Christmas to avoid additional wear and tear. This will help your lights provide cheer and safety for more years to come.

From all of us we wish you a happy (and safe) holiday and a bright New Year.

Your friends at the Greencastle Professional Firefighters Union Local 5125