House fires peak in December and January. The three biggest holiday risks:
Don’t buy a dried-out tree; it’ll be far more flammable than a fresh one. If needles shower down when you bounce the trunk on the ground, the tree is already too dry.
Do keep your tree hydrated, which makes it less likely to catch on fire. Cut off a half inch from the bottom of the trunk when you get home, and make sure the water level never falls below the base of the tree.
Don’t set up your tree near heat sources, like the fireplace and heating vents, which will dry it out faster and increase the risk of its catching fire.
Do toss or recycle your tree three to four weeks after you buy it — the older it gets, the more flammable it is. To find tree-recycling programs in your area, visit earth911.org
Don’t burn your tree in the fireplace. Trees that aren’t fresh can burn out of control. (Wrapping paper can cause flash fires, too.)
Do choose only “fire retardant” artificial trees.
Do use broad-based ones instead of tall, thin ones, which can tip over easily.
Don’t leave kids who are mobile alone in a room with a lit candle.
Do blow out candles before going to bed.
Don’t dress your tree with lit candles.
Don’t use them on a metallic tree, which can conduct a charge if a light malfunctions.
Do check tree lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires, or loose connections.
Don’t connect more than three strings of lights to one extension cord or to each other.
Do turn off the lights before leaving the house or going to bed; a short could start a fire.