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The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Don't let dry Christmas trees become fire hazard

Any moment now, your Christmas tree could become a torch.
Many trees were cut in the fall, and they've been drying out ever since, Mukilteo Assistant Fire Chief Brian McMahan said.
All it takes is a few seconds near a flame or other heat source for a tree to ignite, he said.
If the tree's needles break when squeezed, that's a sign the tree has dried out, McMahan said.
People should get rid of their trees before they get drier, said Alison Caton, a public educator with Snohomish County Fire District 8 in Lake Stevens.
"Once it reaches a dried-out point, it takes very little heat to ignite it, and once they ignite, there's no stopping it," she said. "A Christmas tree will go up with the snap of your finger."
People can get rid of their trees by arranging for pickup by community organizations or taking them to a recycling center, officials said. Some waste companies allow trees to be placed in yard waste bins if they're cut into pieces.
In the meantime, if you store the tree outside, don't lean it up against the house, McMahan said.
"If something comes by and ignites it, you're essentially putting a torch against your house."
Don't burn the tree in the fireplace either, as that can lead to a house fire, McMahan said.
"Even if you had the doors closed, you're still putting an ignition system up your chimney that your chimney typically never sees, which is a good way to start a chimney fire," he said.
Lastly, as you're taking down Christmas lights, check them for wear, McMahan said. Many holiday lights are made with cheap materials that don't hold up over time. Cords should have no fraying and no black discoloration, especially near the plug.
If you're saving lights for next year, don't wrap them too tightly, McMahan said. Straining them could cause breakage and create a fire hazard for next year.
Holiday decorations can be dangerous too, Caton said.
Older and cheaper decorations may not meet fire safety standards, she said. People may want to toss any electrical decorations that don't have a "UL" safety stamp on them, Caton said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com
Learn more
Local Boy Scout troops will recycle Christmas trees as part of their annual fundraiser.
Go to http:// dryneedles.com to see which troop covers your neighborhood and to find out how to contact them.
For more information, call 425-338-0380.
Story tags » FirefightingFireChristmas

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