The Houston Fire Department responds to an average of 130 house and apartment fires in the month of December alone, and they say the holiday decorations can play a big part in those fire hazards.
Christmas trees can be a major fire hazard. The key is to get an extra fresh tree. If you run your hand over a bough, little to no pine needles should come off, according to tree growers. If a lot of needles come off, that’s a dying tree, and it’s going to be more flammable.
Some families are opting to cut their Christmas trees fresh.
“We’re hoping to make this a family tradition to do year after year,” said Christina McAfoose, who brought her sons to Spring Creek Growers in Magnolia for their first fresh cut tree, something they haven't done in past years. “It was just your retail precut tree that usually was dying before Christmas even came close — the fear of the fire in the house."
Houston firefighters say a fresh cut tree is a good idea if you’re looking to avoid fire hazards.
"Make sure it’s just the freshest tree that you can find," said firefighter Abby Ramos.
Some trees may turn out to be less fresh and more flammable by Christmas due to an early Thanksgiving this year and the early tree purchases that came with it.
"We had a really big weekend last weekend," said Lauren Kitcher at Spring Creek Growers. "We probably sold several hundred."
The key is to get the tree into some water as soon as possible.
"If you’re going out to a farm and cutting one down yourself, you want to make sure to immediately put it in water within about 30 minutes or so, otherwise the tree’s gonna try to form a sap seal, which will prevent the tree from taking up water, so you just treat it like fresh-cut flowers," added Kitcher. "Cut it and immediately put it in water.”
Firefighters say they also recommend artificial trees.
Whatever tree you choose, give it some safe space.
"Three feet away from anything that could be flammable,” added Ramos.
"Definitely not near a heat source, so we recommend not putting it underneath where a heater is blowing or next to a fire," described Kitcher. "No candles.”
Firefighters also share some advice when it comes to putting lights on your tree. They recommend that you avoid "daisy chaining" your power strip to another power strip because that can be very dangerous.
If you’re buying a cut tree, growers recommend that you saw the bottom inch off of the tree before putting it in water, so it’s better able to absorb that water and stay fresh.
Or you could just buy a potted tree, something that stays alive and fresh all the way into the new year.