With the holiday season approaching, one favorite holiday decoration could cause danger in the home: the Christmas Tree.

According to a statement from the Madison Fire Department, which cited a study from the National Fire Protection Agency, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 250 Christmas tree-sparked fires between the years of 2003 and 2008.

On a yearly average, the fires caused 14 civilian deaths, 26 civilian injuries and $13.8 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

MFD spokesperson Lori Wirth said the number one problem in these situation stems from electrical problems, especially from decorative Christmas lights. Improper storage of lights can lead to damaged or eroded wires, which creates a higher likelihood of creating a dangerous electrical arc.

According to the report, electrical problems caused 45 percent of Christmas tree fires. Having a heat source too close to the tree and candles also factor into these specific fires.

“Its a significant issue, but is easily preventable,” Wirth said. “If you have a tree, check the wiring of the lights. More and more people are moving to LED lights, which we encourage; they burn cooler.”

Worth added some lights can cause the tree to dry out, preventing the tree from retaining the proper moisture, which would help prevent accidental tree fires.

Worth also said it is not a good idea to run decorative lights continuously through out the day and night. This could cause them to overheat, and a better idea would be for sporadic use.

“We’ve had a generally good run of safe holidays,” Wirth said. “But people can get complacent.”

She said fires occur when people are distracted, and the use of candles for decorations during the holiday time could be a “recipe for disaster.”

While Wirth said Madison has not seen too many of these types of fires in the last few years, she still urged caution for this season.

“We can go for years and years with a good record, but it only takes one incident and then it’s too late,” Wirth said. “It’s very easy to have a safe holiday.”

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