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Candles, dry trees cause Christmas disasters

To avoid fires, Madison Fire & Rescue Department urges caution with candles, heat sources and trees for Christmas decorating. Sponsored by Main Street Cafe, the pictured tree won the "People's Choice" award in the 2016 Tree Decorating Contest on Main Street. RECORD PHOTOS/GREGG L. PARKER
To avoid fires, Madison Fire & Rescue Department urges caution with candles, heat sources and trees for Christmas decorating. Sponsored by Main Street Cafe, the pictured tree won the “People’s Choice” award in the 2016 Tree Decorating Contest on Main Street. RECORD PHOTOS/GREGG L. PARKER
MADISON – Glowing candles and brightly illuminated Christmas trees are treasured during this season. However, Madison Fire and Rescue Department cautions residents to follow a few basic tips to avoid Christmas disasters.
“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” Logistic Officer David Glassman said. “By taking simple fire precautions, people can avoid many potential fire hazards and make this year a healthy and happy one.”
Christmas trees, candles and decorations significantly contribute to seasonal causes of home fires. “Add to this, the hectic and festive nature of the holidays, and the chance for home fires grows even more,” Glassman said.
December is the peak month for home fires caused by candles. The fire department urges residents to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles.
“However, if you do use traditional candles, please keep them at least 12 inches away from any combustible material. Blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed,” Glassman said.
About one-third of all candle fires begin in the bedroom. “Limit candle usage to areas where you are not likely to fall asleep,” he said. “Finally, never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.”
Nationwide, fire departments respond annually to approximately 250 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees. One-third of these fires result from an electrical problem, while one-fifth from a heat source.
To avoid incidents, Glassman suggests the following tips for picking, placing and lighting a tree:
* Artificial trees — Confirm that the manufacturer labeled or certified the tree as fire-retardant.
* Fresh trees — Confirm green needles don’t fall off when touched. Before placing it in sand, cut one to two inches from the trunk base. Add water and check daily.
* Placement — Don’t block exits. Place three feet minimum from fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and lights.
* Lights — Only use lights labeled from an independent testing laboratory. Use indoor/outdoor lights in appropriate locations. Turn off lights before leaving home or going to bed.
* Disposal — Recycle/discard the tree immediately after Christmas.

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