Fire safety key during holidays

Published 7:56 am Friday, November 26, 2010

While Christmas is a time to gather with loved ones, drink hot cocoa and enjoy cozy Christmas trees, lights and decorations, it is important to take safety precautions against unwanted holiday house fires.

Commander Brian Lovik of the Austin Fire Department said that every year there are an estimated 250 home fires involving Christmas trees and 170 involving holiday lighting nationwide.

Lighting the season for Christmas also brings with it a mind for safety. - Photo illustration by Eric Johnson/

However, there are many precautions a person can take to ensure their holiday decorations don’t spark a fire.

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“For your holiday lights, indoor or outdoor, you should inspect the lights each year and make sure they’re not frayed, sockets aren’t broken or cracked and have no excessive wear,” Lovik said. “Don’t overload y our electrical outlets when you hook up strands of lights.”

Lovik said residents who put up fresh cut Christmas trees need to make sure they buy a tree that hasn’t been sitting on the lot too long, because those trees dry out faster and are more of a fire hazard.

“Make sure the needles aren’t falling off the tree,” he said. “If they fall off the tree, it’s been cut too long. Make sure it’s not too close to a heat source or anything that will dry out your tree more easily.”

Tree stands also need to be filled with water at all times so the needles and branches don’t dry out. Not only is this a safety precaution, but the tree will look healthier and keep for longer.

Lovik said artificial trees should be flame resistant, as should all Christmas decorations.

Tree placement within the home is also key, Lovik said.

“If there’s a fire, you want to get out the quickest way possible,” he said. “Make sure you’re not blocking an exit when you put up your tree.”

Some people like to use candles around Christmas, especially as decorations in trees. Never light candles in a tree, and always make sure free-standing candles are sitting on a steady base so they can’t be knocked down easily.

“Just make sure the tree is watered, make sure the lights are serviceable and good and, if they’re not, buy the new energy efficient ones,” Lovik said. “Use common sense and everything should work out fine.”