Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Station 35 captain stresses safety issues

The holiday season is upon us, and I wanted to share a few safety tips in regards to fire safety during this festive time. Many homes and local businesses enjoy decorating a tree this month. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire.

Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration, nationwide an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.

Here are a few things you can do in assisting us as firefighters in keeping you and your family safe.

-- Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull away from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If a lot of needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long ago, has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.

-- Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

-- Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

-- Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

-- Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.

Following these few simple fire safety tips can help keep electric lights, candles and Christmas treeS from creating a tragedy.

Also, make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees. Help ensure that you have a fire-safe holiday season.

If anyone has any questions or concerns about fire safety, please check out more fire safety tips at or come by the King City fire station at any time.

Troy Spisla is the captain of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s King City Station 35.

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