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Wisniewski Reminds Residents to Remember Fire Safety This Holiday Season

Christmas Tree Burn Demonstrates Fire Hazards of the Holiday Season and Safety Benefits of Fire Sprinkler Systems

Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, Chairman of the New Jersey Fire Safety Commission, on Tuesday joined fire safety officials at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville, New Jersey to demonstrate the danger of holiday fires with a Christmas tree burn. In recent years, the U.S. has averaged more than 200 fires each year caused by a Christmas tree or faulty holiday lighting, many resulting in death or injuries.

“The holiday season should be a time of joy, but each year preventable fires caused by Christmas trees and holiday decorations bring tragedy to families all across the country,” Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) reminded residents. “However, there are simple steps everyone can take to prevent them.”

“Christmas trees can burn fast and hot,” added David Kurasz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. “One out of every 34 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death compared to one death per 142 fires overall.”

Following the Christmas tree fire demonstration, which highlighted the speed with which a fire can take hold and spread, Wisniewski and local fire officials outlined some simple steps that families can take to substantially reduce the risk of a fire over the holidays:
· In selecting a Christmas tree, those who use an artificial tree should ensure that the tree is flame retardant. Those using real evergreens as part of holiday décor should make sure the tree is fresh when purchased. If needles are brittle or easily shed, choose a different tree.
· When setting up a tree in the home, it should be placed at least three feet away from any heat source. These include a fireplace, radiators, heating vents and lighting, which can dry out a tree and increase its flammability. In addition, tree stands should be filled with water at all times.
· Fire safety professionals recommend trees not be left up any longer than two weeks.
· When dismantling a tree, it should be discard immediately and properly. It should not be left in a garage, on a porch or at the side of a house. A dried out tree is highly flammable and can still cause major damage from these locations. People should also check with their local community for a recycling program or other disposal options.
· Holiday lighting should always carry the endorsement of an independent testing lab such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Such organizations carefully test products to ensure safety and reliability. Worn or broken cords and loose bulbs should be replaced. These are hazards that can easily ignite a fire.
· In decorating a tree, people should also avoid stringing together too many strands of lights. In general, that means no more than 3 strands of mini lights or 50 screw-in bulbs. Manufacturers’ instructions for LED lighting should be checked for proper use as these can burn hotter and may have greater restrictions. In addition, Christmas tree lights should never be left on if the tree is unattended. Unplug them when you go to bed or leave the home.
· In celebrating the holidays you should also avoid using lit candles in the house and never use them on a tree. If you do use them in the house, make sure they are in stable holders and placed where they cannot easily be knocked over. Never leave them unattended.
· Finally, residents should check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure that they are operating properly.

“Today’s demonstration is a shocking visual reminder that fire can break out at any time and spread quickly, particularly with a dry Christmas tree,” noted Kurasz. “Fire sprinklers save property and lives and are the best defense against Christmas tree and other home fires.

“Each year at the holiday season, there are always news stories of families whose holidays turned into tragedy because of fire,” added Wisniewski. “Don’t let your family suffer such a fate. Take these common sense precautions to help protect you and your family. My wish for everyone is for a festive and safe holiday season.”