LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Christmas tree fires aren't as common as they used to be, but according to the National Fire Protection Agency, when they do occur, they're often serious.
One of the most common reasons for Christmas tree fires is they're put too close to hot objects.
"People tend to store them too close to flammable things," said Lieutenant Bee Xiong of the La Crosse Fire Department. "Make sure that you keep your trees away from fireplaces, or heating elements, or space heaters."
Xiong also mentioned that candles should be kept away from Christmas trees and other decorations and when possible, electrical candles should be used instead of real ones.
Damaged and misused lights are also a fire hazard.
"With both LED and incandescent lights, when you take your lights out, make sure that you check your wires so they're not frayed, there's no broken bulbs, the fixture aren't broke or anything like that," said Xiong. "Make sure that it's not going to short out and cause a fire."
Xiong said it's also important to remember that extension cords are designed for temporary use, not continuous use.
"When you hook your lights up, don't hook them to an extension cord. Try to plug them directly into an outlet," said Xiong. "And if you can't do that, at least use a power strip that has a breaker on there, over-current protection."
And these risks all increase if your Christmas tree isn't maintained properly.
"With live trees you want to make sure you always keep them watered," said Xiong, "because if you don't water your tree, and your tree gets dried up, that thing can go up in flames in about 30 seconds."
Xiong suggests when buying a real tree, make sure it isn't dropping lots of needles. And when you get home, cut an additional two or three inches off the bottom so it accepts water better.
Artificial trees can be dangerous too.
"If you're going to pick an artificial tree," said Xiong, "make sure you pick one that is UL listed and is flame retardant."
UL stands for Underwriters Laboratory, which is an independent organization that tests and certifies products for consumer safety.
It's also important to follow the manufacturer's instructions on Christmas tree lights, both inside and outside the home. Xiong said if you don't have the manufacturer's instructions, hook no more than three sets of lights together. And never use damaged lights.
For more tips and information on Christmas tree fires and safety you can visit the National Fire Protection Agency website at http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/holidays/christmas-tree-fires and the U.S. Fire Administration website at
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