When most people think about the holidays, things like decorations, candles, delicious treats and festive trees come to mind. What few consider is the fact that these fun-filled winter months are the leading time for home fires according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Frequently, people choose to keep Christmas trees up for a few weeks after the holiday — which isn't such a great idea, turns out. NFPA research shows that nearly 40 percent of home fires that began with Christmas trees occurred during the month of January.
Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, said the longer trees are kept in the home, the more dangerous they become.
“The continued use of seasonal lighting and dried-out trees can pose significant fire hazards in and outside the home,” she said. “Proper disposal of the tree from your home will minimize the risk and will keep the holiday a joyful one.”
Although this sort of tree fire is not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be fatal. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fire resulted in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.
So experts advise that when it’s time to dispose of the tree, residents should do so properly, or find a recycling program.
Public Works Director Tim Perry said the city provides two options.
“You can put them where your normal garbage pickup is,” Perry said, adding that individuals will take them from the transfer station and carry them away to be ground up into wood chips.
Or, residents can take trees to the city's compost site, located across the street from the old AAA Restaurant on U.S. 287/Texas 19 North.
The compost site will be closed on New Year's Day but is otherwise open to the public free of charge Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. All lights, ornaments, garland and tinsel should be removed from the Christmas tree before dropping it off.
Residents should not leave live trees in the home, garage or placed outside.
For unplugging the electric decorations, people should use the gripping area provided on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from electrical outlets. Doing so can harm the cord’s wire and insulation, which can lead to an electrical fire or shock. To reduce the risk of holiday tree and light fires and to keep decorations in good condition for next year, the NFPA gives the following suggestions:
• As you’re putting away electrical light strings, take time to inspect each for damage. Throw out light sets if they have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
• Do not place a damaged set of lights back into the storage box for next year’s use.
• Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap the lights around a piece of cardboard.
• Store electrical decorations in a dry place where they cannot be damaged by water or dampness. Also, keep them away from children and pets.
For more preventative steps to take and simple rules to follow in order to prevent home fires during the holidays and beyond, check out NFPA’s “Project Holiday” on www.nfpa.org.