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Fire officials stress holiday decoration safety
Keep Christmas tree from getting too dry to avoid hazards
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Decoration safety tips

  • Keep Christmas tree watered and away from heating vents
  • Don’t burn wrapping paper or limbs from Christmas trees in fireplace
  • Follow safety guidelines on Christmas lights; typically only three strands can be strung together without overloading an outlet
  • Secure ladder before putting up Christmas lights or other decorations, and don’t do it by yourself

Hall County, Gainesville fire officials

As families begin putting up Christmas trees and stringing lights, Hall County fire officials say accidental fires become more common.

"Christmas decorations and items like that do start fires and we do have a couple a year it seems like," Capt. Scott Cagle said.

In fact, the Hall County Fire Department has already responded to a fire this week as a result of exterior Christmas lights being left on for an extended period.

"We always recommend that when you leave the house or when you go to sleep that you turn those lights off," Cagle said.

"It's getting to be our busy season for fires," Gainesville Fire Marshal Chad Payne said.

Dry Christmas trees are often to blame for fires during the holiday season, officials said.

"The biggest part of our call volume will be heating fires due to the temperature changes, but when people put trees up it increases the fire load," Payne said.

Many fires can be prevented by selecting a fresh tree and ensuring it doesn't become dry.

The needles shouldn't fall off easily or break when someone runs their hands over a limb. Also, the trunk should be sticky from sap. Consistently watering the tree should prevent problems; it should also be placed away from heating vents.

"Even though you get the tree fresh, you have to make sure it has plenty of water on it," Payne said.

Last year, Hall County firefighters responded to a blaze caused by a dry tree catching fire from decorative lights.

Officials also emphasized properly disposing of trees; that means never placing trees in a fireplace because pine doesn't burn completely and can catch fire inside the chimney.

"That's pine and you don't burn pine," Cagle said. "Only seasoned hardwood is something we recommend that you put in your fireplace."

At the end of the holidays, trees can be taken to the Hall County Recycling Center or to the county compactor sites for proper disposal.

Officials also advised against burning wrapping paper in a fireplace; it can not only spark a fire but also release unhealthy chemicals.

"That's kind of an unknown fact," Payne said. "It can get very large just because of the chemicals and the makeup of the paper and it can throw off sparks and embers and result in a chimney fire."

Another cause of fires during the holidays is overloading an electrical system by combining too many strands of lights.

"Those lights say only three strands together and people will plug in six or seven or they will put too many items in one outlet and the outlet will be overloaded," Cagle said.

Fires are not the only issue emergency services respond to at this time of year, though. With people putting up lights, injuries from falls occur more often, Payne said.

"People don't realize there's a lot of people injured in falls this time of year either from walking on ice or if they're on a ladder putting up Christmas decorations," he said.

He recommended properly securing the ladder and having a person holding it down.

"You don't want to go putting decorations up or lights on your house by yourself," Payne said.