However, all those Christmas lights and a dry Christmas tree are a recipe for disaster. We talked with Sibley Fire Chief Kenny Huls. He says the wiring behind a Christmas tree often resembles an octopus — with several strings — sometimes piggy-backed, going into the same outlet. Huls says that situation is one that could cause a fire.
He says the small-gauge wiring can often get hot. Officials at the US Fire Administration advise to inspect your holiday light wiring every year, especially the older it gets. Look for frayed or bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive wear, and never leave your lights on unattended.
Huls also has some tips on tree selection.
Fire prevention experts say if you must have a real tree, make sure it’s green and the needles don’t break when you bend them. If many needles fall off when you bounce the bottom of the trunk on the ground, it’s too dry to be safe.
You may already have your tree up and decorated, but you may want to consider moving it if it’s in a hazardous place. Fire prevention experts advise not to put your tree near a fireplace — for obvious reasons — but also don’t put it near a heat vent or radiator. The heat will dry the tree out. That makes it a fire hazard. And place it where it’s close enough to outlets so you don’t need to run an extra extension cord.
Huls says if a tree does catch fire — unfortunately it will be a very fast-moving fire.
Huls says candles are also very dangerous and should be treated with a healthy dose of caution at all times if you use them at all. And never leave candles burning in an unattended room.
Huls says if you remember to keep heat sources away from fuel sources, you should be relatively safe from fire this holiday season.
In a related story, the Iowa Department of Public Safety hosted an event on Monday to highlight the importance of proper care of a live Christmas tree. They burned two Christmas trees in two rooms of furniture. One of the trees had been properly watered, the other had had no water in three weeks. The room the unwatered tree was in quickly turned into an inferno. The well-watered tree was difficult to even light.