Fire safety when it comes to artificial and live Christmas trees

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Christmas trees are a centerpiece in many households this time of year.

Although Christmas tree fires aren't common, they can be some of the most dangerous if they spark up.

For some families, artificial trees are the go-to, while other families enjoy picking out a live Christmas tree together.

No matter what kind of tree you put up, fire officials say there are some safety precautions you need to take to avoid tragedy.

Capt. Matt Winters with the Huntington Fire Department says if you are putting up an artificial tree, thoroughly check the lights and the light cords. If any of the lights don't work or any of the cords are frayed or damaged, you should replace them.

He says to also check the extension cords and make sure you aren't overloading them.

If you and your family put up a live Christmas tree each year, Winters says there are several things you need to look for when you are picking out your tree.

"You want to make sure it's fresh and that the needles are still soft," he said. "If you touch your tree and the needles fall off, then it's already dry."

You also want to cut 2 inches off the bottom of the trunk to allow it to absorb water. Make sure you keep the tree watered daily.

When it comes to putting lights on a live tree, the same rules apply as an artificial tree.

"You want to check your lights and make sure your cords aren't frayed and make sure all your bulbs are there and intact," Winters said. "If you have frayed cords or broken bulbs, that strand needs to go. Extension cords, don't overuse them. Don't overload your power strips and create that extra heat."

Winters says never leave your lights on overnight or when you leave home.

Also make sure your tree is a few feet away from any heat source like vents or fireplaces. If a live tree is next to a heat source, it can dry out quicker.

Once Christmas is over, Winters says you still need to be watering your tree daily until you take it down.

"Same maintenance everyday until you are ready to take it down," Winters said. "Once your needles start to fall off or your tree turns colors, it's already dry and it's time to go."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas tree fires aren't common this time of year. However, if they do happen, they can be the most dangerous types of fires.

When it comes time to get rid of your live Christmas tree, there are many different programs that will recycle them.

Once the list of recycling programs is released for 2019, it will be posted on WSAZ.com and the WSAZ App.