Keep Christmas decorations from ruining your holiday

Picking out a Christmas tree is a tradition for many families after Thanksgiving. Putting up a Christmas tree, however, carries with it some seemingly invisible risks that nonetheless carry deadly consequences.

Captain Tim Young of the Jefferson City Fire Department knows these risks firsthand.

"They burn rather fast," Young said. "I mean, just within a few seconds, they're totally involved.That would involve a room rather quickly, which would add fuel to the fire. A dry Christmas tree is very dangerous."

The fire department recommends watering fresh trees with a gallon or more of water per day. Not doing so could cause the tree to dry out, creating a major fire hazard.

Christmas tree farms also take precautions to help tree-buyers reduce the risk of fire in their homes. Timber View Christmas Tree Farm near Hartsburg has a machine that shakes all of the dead needles out of trees after they are cut down and before families take them home.

Captain Young also recommends using battery-operated candles. He said using real lit candles on a Christmas tree creates a recipe for disaster.

If you do find yourself facing a Christmas tree that has caught fire, however, Young says acting quickly could save lives. "Do not attempt to fight the fire yourself," Young said. "If you have a fire extinguisher that you can quickly discharge without injuring yourself, that might slow the fire down."

"The sooner you call us, the sooner we can get on the road."

Young said the first five minutes of any fire are the most dangerous, and determine the outcome of the fire.

However, holiday hazards don't stop with Christmas trees. Old outdoor lights can pose an electrical hazard, especially if they have been used through many Christmas seasons. Young said outdoor lights that have been used for a long time may have frayed cords or loose connections that can pose an electrical hazard.

"Extension cords are another thing that people forget," Young said. "They aren't meant to be left outside all the time. If you do use an extension cord, make sure to put it somewhere where it won't come into contact with water."

Young also said to take cords indoors during periods of heavy rain or snow.

The fire department also recommends checking all lights for damage before applying them, and to replace old lights rather than attempt to repair them.