2006-12-08 / Community

Avoid Shocks, Christmas Tree Fires

Christmas trees are among the most popular decorations of yuletide, but they also can be deadly. In 2000-2004 on average, one out of every 22 Christmas tree fires in homes resulted in a death, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

To help families avoid such tragedies this holiday season, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) and the NFPA are partnering to remind people that a little common sense and precaution can help create a safer holiday season.

NFPA statistics show that, on average, live and artificial Christmas trees are the ignition sources of 300 reported U.S. home structure fires each year resulting in 14 fatalities, 21 injuries and $16.8 million in property damage.

"The last thing you want during the holidays is a blazing Christmas tree," said Lorraine Carli, NFPA's assistant vice president of communications. "By following simple safety measures like making sure your tree is well watered, and keeping open flames, such as burning candles, away from the tree will help keep you and your home safe."

In addition, 44 percent of Christmas tree fires are caused by an electrical problem or malfunction. Decorators should make sure that any electrical cords they are use are in good working order.

"Damaged or misused electric light strings and extension cords, if left unchecked before you put them up, can deliver shocks and potentially cause home fires," John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for UL, said. "If they are damaged or have frayed wires, you should buy new ones. They are relatively cheap and incredibly good insurance for keeping your holiday season safe."

UL reminds consumers to inspect light strings for cracked sockets and frayed, bare or loose wires. Look for the holographic UL Mark on light strings and electrical decorations. The UL Mark means that UL engineers have tested samples of the product for safety hazards. The not-for-profit safety testing organization also certifies lights for indoor or outdoor use. Lights intended for indoor-only use have green holographic UL Marks. Light strings intended for indoor and outdoor use have red holographic UL Marks.

House fires and electrical shocks aren't the only preventable accidents that injure holiday revelers and damage or destroy property. Each year 12,500 people are treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to holiday decoration mishaps, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

Drengenberg added, "We also hear about people falling off ladders while decorating, and we see a substantial number of house fires started by candles this time of year."

For more holiday decorating tips regarding tree fire prevention, electrical safety, ladder safety and candle safety, please log on to the Web at http://www.nfpa.org or http://www.ul.com/newsroom/opdec/video.html .

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