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The Real Safety Issues of a Fresh Christmas Tree: A Pine, Balsam or Spruce Holiday Tree is Lovely but Comes with Risks

Published by Truman Velis

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A real Christmas tree is a traditional decoration for many families who enjoy the sweet pine smell or simply the atmosphere of a real tree. While there is really nothing wrong with having a real tree, families should be aware of the potential safety issues and know how to handle any problems that may arise.

Setting up the Tree Properly Is Important

The setup of a fresh traditional Christmas tree can be a difficult process, particularly if the tree is very tall. There are a few different kinds of stands available:

  • Strap and Ratchet Stands – these types of stands make it easier to adjust the tree so it is standing straight.
  • Clamp and Claw Stands – these stands use clamps to firmly hold the tree in position. They may be safely used for trees under 9’ tall.
  • T-bolt Stands – with this design, four large screws are twisted into the base of the tree to hold it in place. They are good for very large trees, but can be difficult to adjust.

Manufacturers for specific stands can provide more information on what types of trees their stands are best suited to, and instructions should always be carefully followed during setup.

In order to avoid injury, a team of two or ideally three people should set up the tree. One person should hold the tree upright while the second person attaches it to the stand. The optional third person may stand at a distance and make sure the tree is straight before the stand is fully attached.

When in doubt, always have a secure line attached. A good idea is fishing line which is very strong and almost invisible. Attach it securely around the tree trunk about 3/4 of the way up the tree and then secure to a wall with a screw or nail. If the stand fails for whatever reason, the safety line keeps the tree erect.

Be Aware of Fire Safety

A real tree is a fire hazard, particularly if it is dry or oozing sap. Follow these three important safety precautions to reduce the risk of Christmas tree fire:

  1. Electric lights strung on the tree should be in good condition – no splits in the wire coating, and no empty sockets along the length of the strand. When in doubt, always purchase new strings of tree lights and never take a chance.
  2. The tree should be placed a safe distance away from electrical outlets and items like lamps or candles, open hearth fireplace and should never be set up in a kitchen. The best place is in front of a window where the tree can benefit from the coolness of the glass. For houses with electrical baseboard heating, a Christmas tree should never be set up directly in front of a floor vent.
  3. Extension cords, timers and flashers should be used with caution also. Many fires start each year due to an overloaded extension cord. Choose an extension cord in excellent repair that is equipped with a surge protector.

Caring for the Tree

Christmas trees should always have fresh water in their stand to keep them from drying out for as long as possible. Aside from that, a tree requires very little care except the time to check it for safety each and every day. Christmas trees should be removed from the home once their needles become dry, snapping rather than bending when light pressure is applied.

Real Christmas trees are a pleasant, fragrant decoration for the home during the holidays. As long as some safety concerns are addressed beforehand, families may enjoy their trees without worry.

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