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Tips for fire-free holiday

In 1999, more than 350 home fires in U.S. started from Christmas trees.
Sunday, November 30, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:10 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Columbia Fire Department on Monday will begin its annual Operation Red Wreath campaign in an effort to keep Columbia residents aware of the danger of fires caused by holiday lights and decorations.

A wreath with red holiday lights will be displayed in front of the downtown fire station on Tenth Street. Each time a fire involving holiday lights occurs, the department will change one of the wreath’s bulbs from red to white.

Christmas trees were the primary source of ignition in more than 370 home fires that killed five people and injured 60 across the country in 1999, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Both the Columbia Fire Department and the Boone County Fire Protection District offered tips for having a fire-safe holiday season. They include the following:

For trees and lighted decorations

  • If you buy a live tree, make sure it is green and not turning brown.
  • Make sure the cut of a fresh tree trunk is sticky with resin. Otherwise, it is probably too dry.
  • Place the tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources.
  • Trim branches as necessary so that you can set the tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with widespread feet.
  • Be sure to refill tree stands with water regularly so that trees remain as fresh as possible.
  • If you use holiday lights, check each set for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard or repair damaged sets.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights for every single extension cord.
  • Use only those lights, cords and plug adapters that display an Underwriter’s Laboratory label.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • If you use an artificial tree, be sure it is fire-resistant by reading the manufacturer’s label.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • For candles

  • Use only nonflammable candleholders.
  • Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.
  • Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.
  • Keep candles away from items that can burn if the candle burns too low.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.


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