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Christmas tree safety is up to homeowner

Christmas trees can be beautiful additions to a home if some safety precautions are carefully followed.

Those who celebrate Christmas know that a Christmas tree is often the centerpiece to holiday decorating and celebrating. Presents are tucked beneath the bows, and for many it's a family affair choosing and decorating the tree. While there will be debates on both sides of the fence as to whether a real or artificial tree is better, it comes down to personal preference. Each has its share of advantages and disadvantages.

The big decision lies in choosing a tree that will fit the size of your home and your lifestyle and making it safe. Consider these ideas.

Individuals with large great rooms or cathedral ceilings may be able to invest in a tree that is tall and full. A smaller tree may seem dwarfed in a large room. Conversely, those with a smaller room will want to scale back their tree size. Otherwise the tree can take up too much space and infringe on normal activities.

Placement of a tree is also important. Many people want to put the tree in front of a large window to show off their display to passers by. However, this isn't always practical. If a heating element is near to where you want to put your tree, the air can dry out a real tree; artificial trees may be more forgiving. Take care not to place a tree where it will interfere with the ability to traverse the room, or where guests, children or pets will stumble into it. In fact, those with young children or pets may want to place the tree in a corner where it will be somewhat out of the way or barricaded by other furniture. Securing the tree to a wall or the ceiling with a small hook and fishing line will also be a measure of safety.

Through the years lighting manufacturers have taken steps to create holiday lights that are safer and easier to use. It is never recommended to put real, lit candles on a tree, which is an obvious fire hazard. Check for frayed wires or bulbs that burn relatively hot on Christmas light strands, which can also be hazardous if the lights are left on while unattended. LED lights are now available that operate cooly and may last longer than some other traditional lights.

When choosing ornaments, place delicate or breakable items higher up out of the prying hands of young children. Because glass ornaments can fall and break, it may be safer to use plastic or ceramic ones that will be more durable. A tree is something out of the ordinary in a home, so it's natural that a pet or a child will be attracted to it, hence the need to consider safety.

If you are cutting down your own tree or picking one up from the lot, another consideration is being safe with transport. Many people do not adequately secure the tree to their vehicle before driving it home. A tree that is moving back and forth on the roof of a car, or worse, comes loose and ends up on the road, is a danger. Tie the tree from all directions so that it will not move in transit. And make sure that the branches are kept together in a mesh bag so that they do not catch wind while you are moving. Drive slowly and be attentive while making turns.

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