MOULTRIE — Holiday decorations may be a festive and welcome sight during the holiday season, but they can also pose a grave danger if not properly maintained.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) said fire departments respond to an average of 210 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Moultrie Fire Department Fire Marshall Capt. Lavon Cooper said to follow some simple steps to prevent a Christmas tree fire.

For those who like to set up a live Christmas tree, Cooper said to ensure the tree is properly watered. When the tree starts getting too dry and needles fall off when it is touched, it becomes a serious fire hazard. Video posted on the NFPA Web site, www.nfpa.org, shows the difference between a tree fire on a dry tree and a properly watered one.

For those who prefer to set up an artificial tree, Cooper said the read the package and make sure it is made of flame-retardant materials. Most artificial trees today are flame retardant, but everyone needs to check to be sure their tree is not a potential fire hazard.

The lights being used to decorate either type of tree should be approved for use by an independent testing laboratory, Cooper said. No more than three strands of lights should be connected together around the tree, and check to be sure the light strands have no worn or broken cords. Never use lit candles on a tree, and always unplug the lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

Along with Christmas trees, the NFPA said to choose Christmas decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant. Make sure to use lights labeled for their intended use, as some are labeled only for indoor use, use clips instead of nails to hang decorations and keep them away from windows and doors.

The NFPA found the month of December is the peak time for candle fires in homes, causing 71 percent of home decoration fires. To prevent candle fires, Cooper said to use candles according to manufacturer’s instructions, such as not burning some large candles for more than an hour at a time, and to make sure they are in stable holders.

Cooper said other decorations can also pose a fire hazard if not used properly. Make sure an electrical circuit is not overloaded with decorations, and check to ensure the cords are not frayed or damaged. Make sure lights listed only for outdoor use are used outdoors and that lights listed only for indoor use are used indoors.

Whenever a room with decorations or candles is left unattended, Cooper said to turn off all the lights and extinguish all candles. Also, do not leave lights on and candles burning when sleeping or leaving a home.

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