From Our 2011 Archives

Christmas Trees and Trappings Can Fan Fire Risk

SUNDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of burns increases over the holiday season because people are cooking more, putting up potentially flammable decorations and using fireplaces and candles.

"We see a significant increase in burn patients between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your holiday, which should be full of joy and celebration, can quickly turn tragic," Dr. Jeff Guy, director of Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center in Nashville, Tenn., said in a Vanderbilt University news release.

Many of these injuries are easily preventable if people are cautious and eliminate potential dangers that could lead to burns.

Guy outlined a number of ways to prevent burns and have a safe holiday season.

Staying in the kitchen and being attentive while cooking can prevent most cooking fires. Keep pot holders, wooden utensils, towels, food packaging and anything else that can catch fire away from the stovetop.

Use turkey fryers outdoors and keep them a safe distance from the building. Never overfill a fryer with oil and never leave it unattended.

When you buy an artificial Christmas tree, select one with a "fire resistant" label. When buying a real tree, check for freshness. It should be green, the needles should be hard to pull, the trunk should be sticky with resin and the tree shouldn't lose many needles when it's hit.

Keep fresh trees away from fireplaces and radiators and keep the tree stand filled with water. A well-watered tree is usually safe but it can take just a few seconds for a dry tree to be ablaze, Guy said.

Check new and old sets of Christmas lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, and discard damaged sets. Don't overload extension cords and never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

Don't burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, because it can ignite suddenly and burn intensely. Place candles away from trees and other decorations and in locations where they can't be knocked over. Never leave candles unattended.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Vanderbilt University, news release, Nov. 22, 2011