Here's a list. Now, check it twice.

In a year of social distancing and many events being canceled or seriously altered, folks are looking for that Christmas spirit as soon as possible. In fact, FOX Business reported that Christmas trees, especially fresh ones, are in high demand earlier than ever. The trend can be seen from "cut your own" sellers to big chain retailers. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes are even offering free home delivery with an option of light installation.

Every year, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) reminds us that we need to take extra caution over the holidays. This year is no different, especially considering that the decorations may be on display for longer than they normally would. If you're purchasing a fresh tree this year, make sure that you water it. Yes, you read that correctly, water the cut-down tree. As the tree dries out it, perhaps obviously, becomes even more of a fire hazard. 

The NFPA reports that most Christmas tree fires occur in late December through January when the trees are most dried out.  

Don't believe me? Check out this crazy video of a dry tree going up in seconds:

National Fire Protection Association (YouTube)

So, here is a list to keep in mind while enjoying your tree this holiday season:

  • First and foremost, test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are working properly. I like to keep my smoke alarm on its toes sometimes when I'm cooking, but they're easy to forget about so now would be a good time to check those batteries!
  • Ensure you have the chimney cleaned and inspected before use. This isn't really tree-related, but I think Santa would appreciate it too.
  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Also, the trunk should still be sticky. You want to start out fresh, right?  
  • Before placing the tree in the stand—cut 2” from the base of the trunk. I knew this was a thing but I didn't know why. Cutting the bottom of a tree that has been sitting out removes seals that may have formed and will help the tree absorb water.  
  • Set the tree up at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights. Twenty-five percent of Christmas tree fires are caused this way.
  • Don't block any exits with either the tree itself or furniture you moved to make room for the tree (I know, it can be hard to decide where to put it but you want to be sure you can get out quickly and safely if there is a house fire). 
  • Water your tree. Every day. Not only will it last longer, but it seriously reduces the fire hazard risk.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree. People don't do this much anymore and it seems like a no-brainer, but yeah, don't do it.
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Inspect holiday lights for frayed or damaged wiring, cracked sockets, loose bulbs, etc. Replace them with new sets. Forty-four percent of Christmas tree fires were started because of faulty equipment!
  • Also, check the instructions for how many light strands should be connected- they're not supposed to go on for miles! 
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. I know it's pretty, but it's not safe.
  • Remove the holiday lights when the season is over. Holiday lights are supposed to be temporary decorations that should be limited to 30 days of use.  I don't think anybody follows that rule, but good to know!
  • Get rid of the tree once it is dried. It's still a fire hazard, remember?
  • If a fire occurs inside your home, close the doors behind you as you vacate to the outside, call 911 and never go back inside the home. Tell arriving first responders if anyone is still inside. Again, this isn't Christmas tree specific but pertinent information anyway.  

The last little tidbit I picked up while researching this article is that 21% of Christmas tree fires were started intentionally.

So ... Don't do that.

It's not just the fresh trees that are the culprits either. The NFPA and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission have all sorts of recommendations for this time of year.  Not that you need any more stress added to your life, but it's good to stay informed.  

Here's to a safe and happy holiday! Will you be getting a fresh tree this year? Did I mention that you should water it? Let us know in the comments!