How to properly care for your live Christmas tree to avoid holiday fires

Local News

It all begins with keeping the tree properly watered and trimmed, especially if you're not putting it up right away

CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s something we’re reminded of just about every year at this time, avoiding the danger of having a live Christmas tree catch fire in your home.

If you haven’t already purchased your live tree for the holidays, the pickings might be pretty slim.

For those who already have, the peak season for tree sales is the first couple weeks after Thanksgiving. So, it may have been a while since the tree you bought earlier this month was cut or watered.

“They’ll buy a tree, think they’re gonna do the right thing — take it home, keep it outside on the back deck. Maybe put it up a week and a half or so later thinking it would last longer, be fresher later,” said Tim Parks, of Parks Nursery.

Parks sells hundreds of trees each year from his nursery.

He and safety experts say how you treat and maintain your tree could spell out the difference between having one that stays fresh and one that dries out, possibly leading to a house fire.

It all begins with keeping the tree properly watered and trimmed, especially if you’re not putting it up right away.

“You know everybody cuts the inch off. Well, the inch is good, but the first weekend we say an inch. We tell our people cut the second weekend, cut two inches off, the third weekend cut three inches off because in reality is, that tree is dehydrating the longer it sits and it drinks better if you can get further up the trunk as the weeks get longer,” Parks said.

Experts say live trees need to be watered every day and kept away from anything that can create a spark or too much heat.

The National Fire Prevention Association released a video showing a dehydrated tree going up in flames, along with everything around it.

“In the video, you see how quick the chair that was by it ignites real quick. So you’re gonna have a very hot and fast-progressing fire,” said Battalion Chief Sil Caggiano, Youngstown Fire Department.

According to safety experts, a quarter of all Christmas tree fires are started by an electrical spark from a bad string of lights or a damaged extension cord.

So, Caggiano said it’s also a good idea to check your tree lights and wires from time to time to make sure nothing is broken or frayed, especially if you have pets that might chew on them.

He said you can buy new ones that are fairly cheap, and to make sure they’re underwriter laboratory rated.

“You don’t want to use any older lights. I remember when we were kids, you had the big bulbs that were hot that dried the tree out. It was a source of ignition,” Caggiano said.

When the season is over, throw anything that is bad or damaged out so it can’t be used again.

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