Fire safety at Christmas NATURAL CHRISTMAS TREES Before buying a tree, test for freshness by tapping the base of the tree on the ground or pulling lightly on a limb. If many needles fall off or needles can be easily pulled off, the tree is too dry. Keep your tree as fresh as possible by placing the stump of the tree in a bucket of water out of doors until you are ready to decorate. Before setting up the tree inside the house, trim two inches off the stem diagonally so it can absorb water. Mount the tree securely in a large, wide based reservoir stand and add water each day. Choose a suitable location for your tree, ensuring that it is well away from heating sources and clear of all exits. ARTIFICIAL TREES Though fireproof, metal or aluminum trees are electrically conductive and cannot be decorated with any electrical product. The metal can cause a short and a fire, or simply become "hot" or deliver a nasty shock. Aluminum trees can be illuminated by a colourful spotlight placed a safe distance from the tree, as set out in the manufacturer's instructions. DECORATIONS AND PRESENTS Christmas wrapping and decorations can be highly combustible, and should be kept away from heat sources such as candles, lamps, heaters, fireplaces and woodburning stoves. Gift wrap and boxes should be collected as soon as gifts are opened and discarded with the garbage or recycled where appropriate. INDOOR LIGHTS AND ELECTRICAL DECORATIONS Use only those lights that have been tested and labelled by an approved testing laboratory. Examine light strings, cords, plugs and receptacles before using. Discard any that have frayed cords, cracks in the lampholders or loose connections. Do not overload electrical circuits or extension cords and follow instructions on cord labels regarding connecting light strings to extension cords. Never place furniture or other objects over electrical cords and in particular, never run electrical cords under a rug. With a rug covering a cord, any damage the cord may sustain can go unnoticed. Always unplug the light string before attempting to replace a bulb. Ensure the voltage and/or wattage marked on the light set is compatible with the replacement light. This is especially important with mini-lights as they come in different voltages. Avoid using timers on indoor lights. Tree lights could turn on when no one is at home and create a potential fire hazard. Always turn Christmas lights off before leaving home or going to sleep. HOLIDAY PARTIES Decorate with flame-retardant or non-combustible materials. Have large, fire-proof, non-tip ashtrays available for guests who smoke. Empty ashtrays regularly into a metal container and after the party, check inside and under upholstery and trash cans for misplaced cigarette butts that may be smoldering. OUTDOOR LIGHTING Use only those lights that have been tested and labelled by an approved testing laboratory and are marked for outdoor use. Turn off the electricity to the supply outlet before working on outdoor wiring. Keep electrical connections off the ground and clear of metal objects. Use insulated tape, not metal nails or tacks to hold strings of outdoor lights in place. Be careful not to tape the cords either over, under or along metal eaves troughs. Run cords above ground, keeping them out of puddles and snow. Tape all plug connections with plastic electrical tape to make them as watertight as possible. To prevent moisture from entering bulb sockets, bulbs should face the ground. When using spotlights or floodlights to light your home or trees, ensure they are marked for outdoor use to withstand snow and rain. Indoor floodlights should never be used outdoors. CANDLES Never use lit candles as decorations on Christmas trees. Place candles in non-tip candle holders and ensure they are well away from the Christmas tree or other combustible materials. Never leave lit candles unattended and ensure that they are always out of the reach of children. Matches and lighters are tools not toys! Store them up high where children can't reach them. FIREPLACES Have your chimney inspected at least once a year and have it cleaned if necessary. Always use a fire screen and burn only material appropriate for fireplaces. Burn only wood — never burn paper or pine boughs in a fireplace as the burning particles can float up your chimney and onto your roof or into your yard. Never use flammable liquids in a fireplace. Because ashes may rekindle, never store them in your home. Always remove ashes from your fireplace in a metal container. FIRE SAFETY IN THE KITCHEN Practice fire safety in the kitchen during the festive season. Don't leave cooking food unattended — oil or fat can ignite. If you are faced with a grease fire, remember, put a lid on it and turn the heat source off! Always turn pot handles to the back of the stove when cooking, to avoid pots being pulled or knocked off. PURCHASE AND INSTALL WORKING SMOKE ALARMS, PRACTICE HOME ESCAPE PLANS AND HAVE A HAPPY AND FIRE SAFE HOLIDAY SEASON!