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KFD urges public to play it safe with Christmas trees

staff report • Dec 15, 2012 at 7:40 AM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport fire officials are urging city residents to be fire smart this season and follow fire safety tips as they decorate their homes for the holidays.

Barry Brickey, the Kingsport Fire Department’s public education officer, said a small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can quickly become a large fire.

The following are some Christmas safety tips offered by the fire department.

• Choose a Christmas tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

• Cut two inches from the base of the trunk before placing the tree in the stand.

• Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, including lights.

• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.

• Add water to the tree stand daily.

• Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

• Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

• Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.

• Never use lighted candles to decorate the tree.

• Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Fire department officials say that because a dried-out Christmas tree is a fire hazard, it should not be left in your home or garage, or placed outside against your house after the tree is removed after Christmas.

Kingsport residents can place their trees at the curb for pickup.

Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

According to the fire department, between 2005 and 2009, fire departments in the United States responded to an average of 240 home fires each year that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries, and $16.7 million in direct property damage annually.

Fire officials say Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 18 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death.

A heat source too close to the Christmas tree started 20 percent of the fires.

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