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      How to prevent Christmas tree fires

      Christmas is all about tradition and memories and the Christmas tree is almost always the centerpiece of celebration. But these trees need proper care or they can become ticking time bombs for irresponsible owners.

      According to FEMA, Christmas trees account for 250 fires annually, resulting in 14 deaths, 26 injuries and more than $13.8 million in property damage. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem--dry and neglected trees can be.

      View the following tips for keeping your home safe and your celebration merry during this holiday season:

      Preventing Christmas Tree FiresChristmas Tree Fire Hazards - Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.Selecting a Tree for the HolidayNeedles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.Caring for Your TreeDo not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.Disposing of Your TreeNever put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

      Holiday LightsMaintain Your Holiday LightsInspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.Do Not Overload Electrical OutletsDo not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended

      Holiday DecorationsUse Only Nonflammable DecorationsAll decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.Never Put Wrapping Paper in a FireplaceIt can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.Artificial Christmas TreesIf you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.Candle CareAvoid Using Lit CandlesIf you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree

      Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.

      Read more: FEMA Holiday Fire Safety