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Christmas Trees Festive, Dangerous

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RALEIGH — Most families who celebrate Christmas have a colorful, festive tree intheir house. They can be beautiful, but they also can be dangerous.

Last year, Christmas trees sparked 255 fires in North Carolina. Housefires are 14 percent more likely to happen during the holidays and 30percent more likely to result in deaths.

But, with all the hustle and bustle, it's easy to forget to turn off thelights or water the tree.

Christmas is only a few hours away, yet you can still find people shopping for Christmas trees. Shoppers are not just looking for bargains. Theywant a fresh tree.

A lot of Christmas trees were purchased just weeks ago, and they have already dried out. A Christmas tree here at WRAL had been sitting in ournewsroom lobby for just over a month. It was watered regularly to keepfrom drying out.

However, when Holly Springs firefighter Thad Shearin set fire to it, ittookabout two minutes for the tree to become completely engulfed in flames.

Shearin says the fire can spread even faster if it's inside a house surroundedby gifts and other flammable items. He also says many people overloadtheir trees with lights. That could also lead to a deadly fire.

"If your going to be gone for extended periods of time, cut the lightsoff. Don't leave them burning. I know it looks pretty in the window, butpretty things can sometimes cause the biggest messes."

Shearin says that in his three years at the fire department, he has neverseen a fire started by a Christmas tree. He attributes that to anaggressive public awareness campaign. However, it takes only one baddecision to turn the holidays tragic.

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