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December 06, 2016

Philadelphia officials offer holiday decorating safety tips

While rare, fires related to holiday decorations are stastically more deadly

As city residents decorate in preparation for the holidays, the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management offered some safety tips this week to prevent a joyous time from turning into a tragedy.

City officials want to ensure that people are being safe while remaining aware of the fire dangers that lights, decorations and trees pose to households and occupants' lives.

Fires related to Christmas trees are rare, but the National Fire Protection Association statistics show they are significantly more deadly. A death occurs on average in 1 in every 144 fires. However, a death is reported in 1 in 31 fires caused by a Christmas tree. Only one in every three tree fires were due to electrical problems.

Candles, which are prevalent in Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, also pose added danger during the holidays. One in three candle fires start in a bedroom.

However, those dangers are easily preventable, the OEM said. First, tips from the United States Fire Administration:

• Connect no more than 3 stands of mini-light sets.

• Connect no more than 50 bulbs for screw-in light sets.

• Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles or heat vents.

• Keep candles 12 inches away from anything that burns.

• Get rid of your Christmas tree immediately after Christmas or when it is dry. It should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.

The Philadelphia Fire Department shared the following recommendations:

• If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

• If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.

• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.

• Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.

• Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.

• After the holidays, residents should set their trees out with rubbish on their scheduled collection day. Those who wish to drop off their tree for recycling may visit the Philadelphia Streets Department for detailed information regarding drop off time, dates and locations.

City officials also urge residents to practice year-round strategies, like making sure smoke alarms are functioning and developing an escape plan.

For those who do not have a smoke detector, the PFD will install one in your home at no cost. Visit the PFD website or call Philly 3-1-1 for details.