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Christmas trees and fires: What you need to do to protect yourself

Dee Shelton from the Greensboro Fire Department answers your holiday fire safety questions.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Christmas trees are beautiful but if not taken care of properly, they can cause significant damage. The National Fire Protection Association says an average of 160 fires each year are started by Christmas trees. Dee Shelton from the Greensboro Fire Department answers your Christmas tree fire safety questions.

Real Christmas Trees

When buying, shake the tree well to see if needles fall off. If needles fall off a lot, move to the next one. Have the attendant cut a diagonal, ½” to 2” piece from the end of the trunk. The tree seals itself with the sap to try to survive. This removes that seal and helps it to absorb water better. 

Get it home and in water within an hour or less of the cut or sap will form again. Warm water should be fed on the first watering, this helps to loosen the cold sap in the tree. After first watering, tap water can be used. It’s inside and warm at this point. Most Christmas trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail establishment for selling. It’s very important to keep them watered thoroughly when they reach your home. In the first week, a Christmas tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day. Check the water DAILY. 

Fake Christmas Trees

Today, most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC plastic. PVC trees are fire-retardant but not fire-resistant. 80% of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China.

Electrical Safety

Choose lights that are tested by an independent testing laboratory such as UL listed. If using old lights, check for broken bulbs, frayed wiring, or broken spots that expose wires. Be careful not to overload electrical circuits and use either Surge protectors or Circuit Interrupter Strips instead of extension cords. 

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