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Holidays are a time for cheer, and safety

November 30, 1999|By DAN DEARTH

Holiday gift tips to keep your family safe:

n Carbon monoxide detectors, $30 to $40

n Escape ladders, $30 and higher

n Safety treads for bathtubs and other slick surfaces, start at $4.50

n Flashlights

HAGERSTOWN

With Christmas ? and the decorating that goes with it ? approaching, there are a few easy steps that can be taken to make this holiday season a safe one.

Mike Weller, fire prevention officer for the Hagerstown Fire Department, said a dry Christmas tree and the improper use of Christmas lights can increase the chances of a house fire.

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"A dry Christmas tree can be a disaster in a home ... Because they burn so quickly," he said. "Within 15 seconds, it can be completely involved."

Weller said a few simple tests can be taken as people buy their trees to ensure they aren't too dry. The first thing people can do is take one of the needles and bend it with their fingers. If it breaks into two pieces, chances are good the tree is too dry. A healthy needle will bend but not break, he said.

Another test involves tapping the tree on the ground. If the tree is healthy, the needles will stay on, Weller said. Needles will fall off a dry tree.

Once a tree is purchased, it is important to saw one or two inches from the base to remove any pine pitch that might have sealed ? and dried ? the original cut, he said. Retrimming the base will ensure the tree easily absorbs water and stays hydrated.

"A tree on a lot may have been cut several days ago," he said. "It's critical to cut the bottom of the tree."

When the tree is placed in its stand, the water level should be checked daily and kept just above the cut, he said.

Trees should be kept at least three feet away from heat sources, such as baseboards and space heaters, Weller said. If the tree starts losing a lot of needles, it should be thrown away immediately.

Interior and exterior lights should be inspected every year for loose connections, broken or cracked sockets and exposed or frayed wires, Weller said. Bulbs should be kept clear of curtains and from coming into direct contact with branches and needles.

No more than three sections of lights should be attached to one extension cord to prevent electrical overloads, he said. Outdoor lighting should be waterproofed and removed when the season is done to prevent wear and tear.

Weller said homeowners should hang at least one smoke alarm on each level of a house. Alarms cost as little as $4.50 each or can be obtained for free by calling the Hagerstown Fire Department at 301-791-2205, he said.

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