AgriLife Extension specialist has tips on Christmas tree fire safety, collection

By Paul Schattenberg

COLLEGE STATION – Taking proper care of and precautions with Christmas trees can keep them from catching fire until they can be properly disposed of, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist in family and community health.

“While Christmas tree fires are fairly rare, they can still cause serious property damage and possibly injury or death,” said Joyce Cavanagh, College Station. “The fires typically start due to an open flame from a candle or a short in the electrical lights, but there are other ways Christmas trees can catch fire.”

She said it is important to properly maintain Christmas trees and take steps to help ensure they do not catch fire. She and the National Fire Protection Agency offered the following tips for Christmas tree safety:

— Provide a direct water source for your tree or water it frequently to keep it from drying out.

— Inspect holiday lights for frayed wires or wear that might spark a fire.

— Never use candles as tree decorations and buy electrical lights that meet independent laboratory testing standards and are labeled flame-retardant.

— Keep the tree 3 feet or more away from any heat source such as a fireplace, stove, radiator or candle.

— Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit in the event there’s a need to escape.

— Turn off the tree lights when going to bed or away from home.

— Remove the tree from the home when needles start dropping and turning brown.

Cavanagh said even though a Christmas tree has been removed from a home, it may still present a fire hazard.

“Dried-out trees constitute a real fire danger and should not be left in the garage or placed outside next to the exterior walls of your home,” she said. “See if your community has a Christmas tree collection or recycling program, make arrangements for pickup from the appropriate removal service as soon as possible.”

Cavanagh said for proper and safe disposal of Christmas trees, all ornaments, tinsel, ribbon, lights and other non-organic materials should be removed.

“If needles drop onto the floor during the process of tree removal, it’s better to sweep them up as opposed to vacuuming, because the needles can clog your vacuum cleaner,” she said.

To read more of this story, pick up a copy of Thursday's edition of The Groesbeck Journal! You can also subscribe online or call 254-729-5103.

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