Time to toss the tree

Published 9:43 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Now that the new year has almost arrived, it’s time to get rid of the Christmas decorations — or at least the flammable ones, fire officials say.

Real Christmas trees are flammable objects, and the longer they are in your home, the more flammable they become.

“If it’s time to get rid of it, let’s go ahead and get it outside and get it away from the house,” said Gary Lassiter, assistant fire marshal for the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue.

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The tree should be freed of all ornaments, lights and tinsel and left at the curb for bulk pickup, Lassiter said. Folks should not leave them in the garage or leaning against the outside of the house.

“You want to make sure you keep them away from any heat-producing mechanical stuff at your house,” Lassiter said, noting that dryers and water heaters are often located in the garage.

Leaving them leaning outside provides an easy opportunity for troublemakers to start a fire, Lassiter also noted.

Fires that start with a Christmas tree are not common but are more likely to be deadly than the average house fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average, one of every 40 reported Christmas tree fires results in a death, compared to one death for every 142 total home fires.

“Our hope is that once people understand the fire hazards associated with Christmas trees, particularly as they continue to dry out over time, they’ll choose to remove them promptly,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association.

The Suffolk Department of Public Works will collect Christmas trees and boxes from the curb as a bulk pickup. Through Jan. 9, the pickup will not count toward the 12 free bulk collections allotted each household for the year, but it will count after Jan. 9. The trees and boxes should be placed at the curb at the same time as the regular trash.

In other seasonal fire prevention news, Lassiter also encouraged folks to keep space heaters at least three feet in all directions from anything that could ignite, such as curtains, blankets or stacks of paper.

He also reminded folks not to burn their Christmas tree unless they have been issued a burn permit.

Other tips from the NFPA:

  • When unplugging electrical decorations, use the gripping area on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from an electrical outlet. Doing so can harm the cord’s wire and insulation, which can lead to an electrical fire or shock.
  • As you put away electrical light strings, take time to inspect each for damage. Throw out light sets if they have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap the lights around a piece of cardboard.
  • Store electrical decorations away from children and pets, and put them in a dry place where they won’t be damaged by water or dampness.