Holidays bring festivities, but safety issues as well

While the Thanksgiving holiday means plenty of turkey, dressing and all the other trimmings, many area residents will look to trim something slightly taller and greener — their Christmas tree.And while it offers the opportunity for kids young and old to enjoy the change in weather and seasonal cheer, it’s not a time to forget about safety, cautions Big Spring Fire Marshall Carl Condray.“Try to select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needles of pines and spruces should bend and not break and should be hard to pull off the branches,” said Condray. “On fir species, a needle pulled from a fresh tree will snap when bent, much like a fresh carrot. Also, look for a trunk sticky with sap.“Cut off about two inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly. Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways. If you use an artificial tree, choose one that tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.”Picking your Christmas tree is just the beginning, according to Condray, as what you put on it can be just as important.“Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors. Again, look for the UL label,” Condray advised. “Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. You should check them by setting them on a non-flammable surface and leaving them plugged in for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure they don’t melt or smoke. Turn off all the lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.“When you’re hanging the lights, be sure to keep them away from flammable materials such as curtains, and make sure the cords aren’t near any sources of water. Never connect more than three sets of light to an extension cord, and to prevent overheating, pinching and fraying cords, avoid running lights under rugs or behind furniture.”Condray said another holiday favorite — candles — can also pose a considerable risk if not handled with extreme care.