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Kingsport Fire Department provides tips for safe holiday decorating

Staff Report • Dec 2, 2018 at 9:00 PM

KINGSPORT – As Christmas approaches, the Kingsport Fire Department is reminding residents to be fire smart as they decorate their homes.

A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree or other decorations can grow large very quickly, according to Barry Brickey, public education and information officer for the KFD. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, they are likely to be serious when they do occur.

By the numbers

• From 2012-2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 170 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of four deaths, 15 injuries and $12 million in direct property damage annually.

• On average, one of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 139 total reported home fires.

• Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43 percent of home Christmas tree fires.

• In 27 percent of the Christmas tree fires and in 80 percent of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.

Picking and placing the tree

• Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

• Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.

• Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.

• Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree

• Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

• Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands to connect.

• Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

• Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving.

Holiday decorating

• Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

• Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.

• Blow out candles when you leave a room.

• Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

• Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.

• Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

• Keep decorations away from windows and doors.

Holiday entertaining

• Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.

• Keep children and pets away from lit candles.

• Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.

• Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.

• Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.

• Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.

After Christmas

• Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left inside or placed outside against the home.

• Check with your local community to find a recycling program. In Kingsport, a clean natural tree can be placed curbside for pickup.

• Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.