Fire department offers tips on Christmas tree safety

As residents of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County prepare to decorate their Christmas trees, the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department has issued some advice for doing so safely.

Fire departments across the country respond to an average of 210 structure fires each year caused by Christmas trees, according to a press release from the department, and decorating them safely can help make the holidays safer.

If you have an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.

When choosing a real tree, make sure it has fresh green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Before placing the tree in the stand, cut one to two inches from the base of the trunk and make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source like radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.

Add water to the tree stand and be sure to add water daily.

Tips for lighting the tree include:

• Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use and don’t use both.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect.

• When hanging lights, it is a good idea to use insulated hooks. Using screws or nails can puncture light strands or cables.

• Never use candles to decorate a tree.

• Always turn Christmas tree lights off before leaving home or going to bed. Put the lights on a timer.

• Make sure outdoor lights are for the outdoors. Indoor lights are not made to withstand the elements of being outside.

• New types of lights have fused plugs which help prevent sparking in the event of a light short circuiting. Take the time to dispose of older lights and invest in newer lights that are safer.

After Christmas, get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage or placed outside against the house. Bring in electrical lights after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.