12 On Your Side: Keep your Christmas tree from going up in flames

Tree alarm put to fiery test

SAN ANTONIO – It takes only seconds for a festive Christmas tree to go up in flames.

"If a live tree does go up in flames, there’s nothing you can do about it, " said San Antonio Fire Department spokesman Woody Woodward. “It’s going to do significant damage to your house.”

Christmas trees cause about 160 fires a year. On average, the fires result in three deaths, 15 injuries and millions of dollars in damage.

Now there are alarms that look like ornaments that you can hang on the tree, putting them close to the source of a potential fire.

With the help of the Sterling Heights Fire Department, WDIV-TV in Detroit put one of those alarms to the test. The alarm is designed to make a noise if it reaches a temperature of 150 degrees while hanging on a tree.

With the tree lit in three places, it took more than 35 seconds for the alarm to sound. Firefighters said it was too late of a response.

To avoid Christmas tree fires, experts say choose a tree with fresh green needles that don’t fall off when touched. Before placing it in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk. And, be sure to water it daily.

Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL).

“If it’s been a few years since you bought lights for your tree, make sure there are no missing bulbs, frayed wires and are not hot,” Woodward said. “It’s a good idea to check. Touch those lights and feel if they’re hot up against your tree. It may be time to get some newer, more modern lights.”

LED lights burn cooler than incandescent bulbs.

Woodward advises you to avoid extension cords and plug lights directly into the wall. And, don’t leave lights on when you’re not home or are asleep.

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