By Jeannie Vogel

Special to the Star

LAKE COUNTY — Be fire smart as you deck the halls and entertain this holiday season. Water your Christmas tree daily and be cautious with candles and electric lights to keep this joyous time of year safe.

"Christmas tree fires can turn devastating and deadly within seconds, allowing you little time to escape a potentially deadly fire," explained acting Michigan Fire Marshal Michael Deprez. "Water your tree daily, extinguish candles and unplug holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house are a few simple but important preventive steps to help ensure your holidays are safe and happy."

According to recent reports from the National Fire Protection Association, one of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and nearly half of decoration fires are due to decorations placed too close to a heat source.

"December is also the peak time of year for home candle fires because people fall asleep or leave home with unattended candles left burning," said Deprez. "Never go to bed or leave home with candles lit and lights on."

Deprez also said to never use lighted candles on the tree and keep candles away from anything that can catch fire, such as decorations, greenery, curtains and furniture. Keep candles up high enough away from children and pets. Use battery operated, flameless candles instead.

Additional holiday fire safety tips:

  • Use lights that have been approved by a testing agency such as the Underwriters Laboratories and have a UL-tested label on them.
  • Don’t use any strings of lights that are frayed or broken; throw out damaged sets.
  • Don’t overload electrical sockets. Don’t link more than three light stands per single extension cord.
  • Place the tree as close to an electrical outlet as possible so that cords are not running long distances. Do not cover up cords with rugs to hide them – this increases the fire hazard.
  • Remove your tree soon after the holidays. Recycle it using your community’s pickup day if available. Don’t leave it in the house or garage. Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

"Be sure your smoke alarms are in working order, have a fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it,” said Deprez. "Have a prepared and practiced home escape plan that will help insure your survival in a home fire."