Don't Get Burned This Holiday Season

Posted November 28, 2006
Updated November 29, 2006

RALEIGH -- Each year Christmas tree fires are responsible for $16.2 million in direct property damage nationally, and candle-related fires soar during the month of December. Insurance Commissioner Jim Long wants to remind North Carolinians to stay safe this holiday season.

“It’s the time of when people start rushing around getting ready for the holidays, and there’s so much to get done that often people tend to forget about safety,” said Commissioner Long. “Even though safety may not be at the top of your holiday to-do list, it’s an important step that can save your life.”

In an effort to get the importance of holiday safety across to North Carolinians, the Department of Insurance, Office of State Fire Marshal partnered with the Raleigh Fire Department for a safety demonstration in Raleigh on Nov. 28. Firefighters ignited a Christmas tree to show how easily and quickly a tree can burn if not kept watered and/or treated with a special flame-retardant spray.

“We’ve found that we can tell people how to be safer and what the risks are, but showing the public what can happen really drives the messages home,” said Raleigh Fire Chief Larry Stanford.

To stay safe this holiday season, remember these safety tips:

Christmas Tree Safety

After choosing a natural tree, trim one inch from the tree’s trunk to ensure water is reaching the tree. Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.

Water natural Christmas trees daily to keep them from drying out, and safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.

Display the tree at least three feet away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Never use lit candles as tree decorations.

When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.

Treat natural trees with flame-retardant spray to prevent them from igniting.

Lighting Safety

Always unplug holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use holiday lights. For example, use only lights specified for outdoor use when decorating outside.

Do not use any string of lights that has worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.

Candle Safety

Never leave a burning candle unattended.

Have working smoke alarms in your home.

Store matches, lighters and candles away from children’s reach.

Keep candles away from anything that can burn including curtains, blinds, wallpaper, clothing or any other material that can catch fire.

Don’t place lit candles in windows or near doorways where drafts could bring combustibles in contact with the flame.

Use sturdy candle holders and place them on a solid, uncluttered surface away from edges where they could be tipped over.

Use flashlights and battery-powered lighting during power outages.

Never leave a child unattended in a room with a burning candle and don’t allow children or teens to burn candles in their bedrooms

* Info provided by Department of Insurance's Office of State Fire Marshal

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