When it comes to Christmas trees and lights, exercise caution

December is one of the most colorful months of the year because of all the Christmas trees and lights in and around people’s homes. But as pretty as they are, they all can cause an uncontrolled light most people don’t want to see: fire. Hutchinson County Fire Marshal Danny Richards said the live and dry pine trees can be a fire hazard if not handled properly.Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases. If one decides to own a live Christmas tree this year and years to come, he or she will need to make sure the needles are green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard. Richards stressed that live trees should not be placed close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. He also said tree and house lights need to be closely inspected.“Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up,” he said.Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions show it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires as they should not be warm to the touch. Do not leave holiday lights unattended.If all possible, it is advised to use Only Nonflammable Decorations, because they burn just as fast if not faster, than the tree its self. “Over all Christmas lighting, if done properly, and safely can make Christmas a pleasant time of the year,” stated Richards.