If someday a movie comes out in theaters titled The Killer Christmas Tree, don’t assume it’s a slapstick comedy. The thing is, Christmas trees really can kill—and not by falling on top of you at the lot or farm, but in a tragically easy way—by causing a fire to engulf your home.
While burn fatalities from Christmas trees are rare, they happen—the trees are often the first point of ignition in a home structure fire. These tragedies are easily preventable, and even when there are no fatalities, the damages are still costly. So don’t take your chances. Here are 18 ways to keep your family and home safe from fires and injuries caused by a Christmas tree.
1) Old trees will be drier and therefore burn more easily. Buy a fresh tree with sap in its trunk and flexible needles.
2) Always keep the water supply filled—never let it go dry. Needles with a low moisture content are a huge risk for fire.
3) Make your tree topple-proof—this is especially important if you have pets. Secure by looping twine or fishing line around the trunk and tying to screws in the wall.
4) Use low-energy lights for decoration to prevent overheating branches and needles.
5) Ensure the cords are not frayed.
6) Place lighting cords along walls, not under rugs.
7) If you have animals who might chew the cords, duct tape them to the floor or run through a PVC pipe to avoid burned mouths and electrocution.
8) Any one extension cord should have no more than three strings of lights.
9) Never leave the lights on overnight or when you’re out, especially if you have pets—they might be tempted to play with the lights and end up burning themselves and/or knocking the tree over while you’re away. Try light timer-devices to ensure you won’t forget to turn them off at night.
10) Keep the tree away from the fireplace or other sources of heat, including the TV.
11) Have pets? Save their lives by preventing them from chewing on the needles and branches, which may be coated with insecticides and flame retardants.
12) Always immediately sweep up fallen needles so that your furry friends don’t lick them up.
13) Pet owners should not put up any tempting food-based ornaments—this includes strings of popcorn and gingerbread men.
14) Place glass/breakable ornaments high up on the tree so that they are less likely to be knocked down by Fido, Muffy, or even your toddler. Not only can the sharp shards slice up their bare feet, but these curious adventurers might even try to eat them—which could lead to choking.
15) When the tree dries up, get rid of it immediately. Don’t store it anywhere on your property—not even in the garage.
16) Don’t assume that a fake tree is safe. It should be flame resistant and come with a seal of safety approval if it includes built-in lights.
17) Electric lights on a metal tree can cause electrocution. Avoid these at all costs.
18) Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Make sure every family member knows how to use it in case of emergency—it could save someone’s life.