As Christmas approaches and presents continue to pile up under the Christmas trees located in homes around the world, fire officials are warning that those decorative trees could become deadly, if proper precautions aren’t taken.
Each year, over 300 fires in the United States are linked to Christmas trees, resulting in an average of 14 deaths a year and millions of dollars in damage. Locally, the Clermont County Department of Public Safety Services is urging residents to be careful when decorating for Christmas.
“There haven’t been any this year, yet,” said Clermont DPSS Director Beth Nevel. “Every year it seems like we have one or two.”
Residents are warned to take some simple precautions when decorating their homes for Christmas with electric lights, which can be risky, said Nevel.
“During the holidays, we all want lots of lights,” said Nevel. “We have problems with both inside and outside displays. Any time you deal with electricity, you need to follow the manufacturers recommendations.”
"Just make sure that every receptacle has a bulb in it," said Nevel. "Make sure there are no bare wires. Make sure there is no damage that is taped up. They must be in good working order, you can do that while you put them on the tree. Don't try to skimp, don't use too many extension cords. Follow the manufacturers directions."
Another common problem that can be avoided is leaving lights on for either too long or without supervision. If you will be leaving the home, or will be sleeping, turn the lights off to help keep something from overheating or shorting out.
"People should turn their lights off either when they go to bed or if they are going to be away from their home," said Nevel. "People also leave their live tree up too long. When the needles start to fall, they need to take it down. That can be either because it's up too long or they didn't water it right. You need to cut the trunk off just before you put it in the stand and make sure it has water, because it will continue to suck water and keep that tree moist. Some of us forget to take the tree down on time."
Nevel said that making an effort to slow down and enjoy the holiday season will result in safer celebrations for everyone.
"It's a joyous holiday season, no matter what your religion," said Nevel. "Everyone gets in such a hurry, and people need to slow down. Watch for traffic, don't travel too closely to people, and if you're going to drink, give someone your keys or have transportation arranged before you start to drink."