Now that the holidays are over, it's time to take down the decorations, especially the Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree
Flickr User zaimoku_woodpile

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 40 percent of home fires caused by Christmas trees occur in January.

"The longer they are 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," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. "Proper disposal of the tree from your home will minimize the risk, and will keep the holiday a joyful one."

When tree fires do occur, they are more likely to be fatal.  On average, one out of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death.  That compares to an average of one death per 142 reported home structure fires.

When it's time to dispose of the tree, check with your local community to find a recycling program. Do not leave them in the home, garage or outside.

To reduce the risk of tree and light fires, follow these suggestions:

  • When unplugging electric decorations, use the gripping area provided on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from electrical outlets because it could harm the cord's wire and insulation, which could lead to an electrical fire or shock.
  • As you're putting away electrical light strings, take the 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.
  • 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."

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