Stringing up lights and putting ornaments on the tree is a family tradition that marks the beginning of the holiday season for many. As you begin work on this year’s decorations, remember that taking a few safety precautions can keep the fun in your holidays. Unfortunately, holiday trees and decorations resulted in 180 fires, 14 injuries and more than $14 million in property damage.  In order to reduce the occurrence of injury, death, or property damage during the holiday season, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has published a list of safe decorating guidelines. Here are some important things to keep in mind when you and your family are decorating for the holiday season :
- Artificial trees should be fire resistant. Live trees should be fresh, as a fresh tree will be more fire resistant than a dry tree.
- Do not place a tree ear fireplaces, radiators, or other sources of heat. This is a fire hazard. Trees should also not be placed in doorways or in areas of high traffic.
- Choosing lights. You should only use lights that have been tested for safety. Discard or repair any damaged sets of lights. Electric lights should never be used on a metal tree. You should not use more than three standard sets of lights per extension cord. Make sure to turn off or unplug the tree before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Candles should never be placed on or near a tree, other decorations, or wrapping paper.
- Caring for a live tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. Before placing your tree in the stand, cut off about 2 inches from the base to allow for better water absorption.
For more holiday safety decorating tips, read the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission pamphlet “Holiday Decoration Safety Tips.”
About the Author: Courtney Allen Van Winkle is a partner and personal injury attorney in Richmond with Allen & Allen. She has been ranked in Virginia Super Lawyers, which include only 5% of attorneys in Virginia. With a career spanning more than 20 years, Courtney has handled personal injury cases involving catastrophic injury, brain injury and wrongful death in Richmond, VA and across the state.
 John R. Hal, Jr., Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights (Nov. 2015), National Fire Protection Association, www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics/fire-causes/holiday/christmas-tree-and-holiday-lights