The No. 1 instigator of Christmas fires is the indoor live Christmas tree. Start your holiday safety routine each year by choosing either a flame retardant artificial tree or a live tree that fits the following criteria: a sticky trunk, needles that hold onto the branches when gently tugged on and absence of dry needles. To test for a freshly cut tree, bounce the trunk on the ground. A circle of dry needles underneath is a sure sign to steer clear, as this tree has been cut too long ago to remain fresh. Another tip from the National Fire Protection Association is tree placement. The rule of thumb is to place the tree 3 feet from any heat source (fireplace, heating vent, radiator) and clear of exits. Add water to base daily and remove the tree after two weeks, or before the needles become dry.
The twinkle of Christmas lights is a holiday tradition in many households. When unpacking your stash of electric necklaces for the tree and hearth, check each strand for frayed or gaped insulation, broken sockets, kinking or general wear. Discard strands not meeting safety criteria. Three linked strands is a maximum guideline, and do random safety checks of the strings during the season, unplugging any strands that are warm to the to the touch. Always turn all lights off when you are not in the room.
Candles, wrapping paper and all of the Christmas regalia in your home should be thoughtfully placed and disposed of or stored after the holiday. Use candle holders and never leave a burning candle unattended. Lit candles should never be used as tree decorations and should be kept far away from trees and other decor. Never burn wrapping paper in a fireplace as it can set off a large, quick-burning fire. All Christmas decor should be flame retardant and displayed away from heating vents, radiators and fireplaces or other heat sources. Remember to replace your smoke detector batteries regularly and have an emergency evacuation plan in case of fire.