This article first appeared on Patch on December 14, 2009:
Christmas trees, holiday candles and Menorahs are de rigeur at this time of year. They lend a bright and festive note to cap off your holidays--and are necessary elements of the ritual of celebration. But revelers must remember that fire can be dangerous.
Captain Joseph Callaghan of the Maplewood Fire Department gave Patch a few simple tips to pass along for holiday fire safety.
"If you have an elaborate display," said Callaghan, "make sure you don't overload a circuit. And use a proper gauge outdoor extension cord. Your local hardware store should be able to help you with any questions."
Regarding that yule log in the fireplace, Callaghan suggested, "When in doubt, have your chimney cleaned before lighting it up. I found it better to use a local vendor rather than one of the chimney 'chain,' out-of-area guys."
Dry Christmas trees are a major hazard. "I have seen a dry Christmas tree catch while at a residential fire on Maplewood Avenue some years back. Scary how much heat energy it gave off!" The National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories has a video on YouTube showing how quickly a dried out Christmas Tree can burn.
Callaghan said you should check the water levels every few days. If you do this, "you should be fine." Fire Battalion Chief Ed Wade of the Millburn Fire Department also wanted to remind home owners not to place trees near the fireplace or any heat source. In addition, if you buy a pre-cut tree from a lot, make a fresh cut to the bottom of the tree, Wade said. The new cut will allow for the tree to absorb water better.
Wade suggested making sure your candles are secure and stable in their holders before you light then. Also, don't leave them unattended. He said he had a candle one time that cracked when the glass at the bottom got too hot. The liquid wax oozed onto the table. "Fortunately, we were right there," he said.
Finally, don't leave children alone with lighted candles or fireplaces. Fire is fascinating and children are very curious!