Simple steps can help keep your tree looking fresh

Published 8:38 am Thursday, December 22, 2016

More than anything else, the most accepted symbol of Christmas is a natural Christmas tree adorned with ornaments and lights giving off its own glow, surrounded by other symbols of the season.

But the beauty of a natural tree can become tragic if people fail to take proper care of it and ensure its branches stay fresh, and fail to take r precautions against the threat of fire that can damage not only the tree and ornaments, but possibly sections of the home.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, fire departments responded to an average of 210 home structure fires per year that began with Christmas trees in 2010-2014. The fires caused an annual average of six deaths, 16 injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage.

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On average, according to the association, one of every 34 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires.

In one-quarter of the Christmas tree fires and deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.

Electrical failures or malfunctions were also factors in one-quarter of Christmas tree fires.

These tragedies, however, can be avoided if people follow some guidelines to keep their tree safe.

“If you have a natural Christmas tree, make sure you have plenty of water in the stand and the area around the tree is dry,” Vicksburg Fire Chief Charles Atkins said.

People also need to make sure their tree is away from heat sources like fireplaces and heaters that can cause it to catch fire.

If someone has not yet put their tree up, John Kushla, a forestry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service recommends cutting an inch of the bottom of the tree before putting in the stand, adding people need to make sure they have the proper size stand for their tree.

“Check the water daily to make sure there is enough in the stand.”

Atkins said Christmas tree lights should be checked to make sure the wiring is intact and in good shape, and the tree lights should be plugged into a power strip with a surge protector instead of plugged directly in the wall. Kushla recommended using LED or small lights on the tree.

“Children and pets should be kept away from the tree as a safety precaution,” Atkins said.

“We want people to enjoy their trees and exercise proper safety so there isn’t a tragedy,” he said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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