Are real Christmas trees fire hazards? Here are 10 ways to stay safe

christmas tree, fire hazard, home safety, safety tips, christmas safety, home insurance, house fire

There are plenty of reasons people around the world prefer to decorate a real Christmas tree in their homes, rather than a fake one.

For starters, real trees are natural and therefore 100 percent biodegradable. They are usually cheaper than fake trees and, not to mention, make your home smell nice.

But purchasing a real tree and wrapping it with hot lights can be a fire hazard. Christmas tree fires are infrequent, but when they do occur, they are serious, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires caused by Christmas trees each year from 2007-2011. The result was a yearly average of six deaths, 22 injuries and $18.3 million in property damage, the NFPA reported.

But if you’re team ‘real tree’ for life, here’s a list of fire safety tips:

1. look for one that is fresh and has green needles that don't fall out. Brownish needles mean the tree is dried out and more prone to catch fire.

2. Water your tree daily to prevent it from drying out.

3. Check the manufacturer's labels to ensure you use only lights and decorations that are flame-retardant. Look for a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek or the Canadian Standards Association, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

4. Check holiday lights for frayed wires or excessive wear.

5. Don't connect more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

6. Keep your tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source, such as a fireplace, radiator, candles or lights.

7. Make sure your tree is not blocking an exit. In case there is a fire, you want a way to get out.

8. Always turn off lights on a tree before going to bed or leaving your home.

9. Get rid of a tree when its needles start dropping. It means the tree is drying out.

10. Check that your smoke alarm is working properly.

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