Holiday Safety: Trees and Lights Can Pose a Danger

Three members of the New York City Fire Department stopped by the "Good Morning America" Times Square studio to participate in the Warm Coats and Warm Hearts coat drive.

While they were here, FDNY Lt. Anthony Mancuso and Firefighters Eddie Long and Hisham Tawfiq -- all of the FDNY's Engine 69 in Harlem -- shared fire safety tips that will be especially useful for the winter holidays, when fire risk typically increases.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, every year fire departments across the nation respond to an average of 250 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Nearly half the blazes are caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat source that was too close to the tree.

The firefighters offered these tips:

Have a working smoke alarm.

Have an evacuation plan for your family in case of fire.

Make sure you use extension cords and lights approved by Underwriters Laboratories.

Make sure Christmas trees have enough water and don't dry out.

Don't leave holiday lights on when you're not at home.

Here are some other tips from the NFPA:

If you have an artificial tree, be sure it's labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don't fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2 inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.

Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.

Use Lights That Have Been Independently Tested, Says NFPA

Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.

Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

Always turn off holiday lights before leaving the home or going to bed.

After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.

Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

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