Holiday hazards: is your home at risk?

While we celebrate the holidays with family and friends, firefighters across the nation will be responding to emergency calls because someone’s Christmas tree went up in flames.

It’s not as unusual as you might think. Pemco Insurance says fire departments see an average of 200 fires started by Christmas trees every year, which adds up to millions of dollars in damage. In the worst cases, these fires can even take a loved one’s life.

Experts say there are three main culprits when it comes to Christmas tree fires: dried-out live trees, being placed too close to a heat source, or electrical problems.  Fortunately, those are all easy to avoid.

If you are celebrating with a live tree, make sure you water it every day so that it doesn't dry out.  When the tree starts shedding needles, it's time to say goodbye for the year, because the falling needles are a sign that the branches are drying into perfect kindling.

No matter what kind of tree you have, it should be placed at least three feet away from any heat sources, including vents and space heaters, so that it doesn't spontaneously combust.  Of course, you will also want to keep your tree far away from the fireplace and any candles.

Electrical problems are another potential holiday hazard.  If your lights are over a year old, the plastic casing around the wires may be cracked, which could mean a live wire coming in contact with the walls, the floor, or the other decorations.  Even if you're using brand-new lights, you could run into a problem if you overload the circuits by plugging too many decorations into the same outlet.  Pemco Insurance experts say it's crucial to read the warning labels any time you install new decorations to make sure you aren't exceeding the recommended electrical current.