According to the United States Fire Administration, residential fires peak during the winter months due to holiday decorations including electric lights and signs, candles, garlands and Christmas trees that dry out over the course of the season. In fact, the USFA says that fires which are ignited by Christmas trees result in damage costs that are three times higher and fatalities, which are eight times higher than fires which are started by other factors.

As Thanksgiving comes to pass and you start thinking about decorating for the holidays, make sure your apartment and apartment complex are free from fire hazards with these holiday safety tips:

Choose the Right Christmas Tree for Your Apartment

Choose a fresh Christmas tree and leave it up for no more than 2 weeks. A Christmas tree that easily loses its needles when shaken has been cut too early and is already drying out. Fresh trees don a more vibrant shade of green, exude a stronger pine fragrance and have a sticky trunk. Be careful not to place your Christmas tree near a major heat source such as a fireplace or heater because it will suck the moisture from the tree increasing the chances of your tree becoming an incendiary device. Don’t smoke around the tree and always make sure you keep the water reservoir full. If you are using a fake tree, make sure it’s flame retardant and avoid placing it near heat zones as well.

Set Up Holiday Lights Around Your Apartment with Care

Yes, waking up to the warm glow of a lit Christmas tree on a cold holiday morning will make you smile, but don’t leave the lights on for Santa. Leaving holiday lights on unattended is not only a waste of electricity but it’s a major fire hazard. Always make sure to turn your Christmas tree lights and holiday lights off when you leave your apartment or home or when you go to bed. Make sure you only buy strands of lights that have been safety tested and follow the directions and precautions provided for stringing and powering your lights. Too many strings of lights attached together to a single power source can spell disaster. Likewise, if you are using older strands of lights, make sure that the wires are not frayed or kinked which can literally spark an electrical nightmare.

Think Through Your Holiday Decoration Choices

A little tinsel here, a little tinsel there, the excitement of the holidays can sweep us away as we drag out every last Christmas decoration from the hall closet. Sure, who doesn’t love a big pumpkin spice scented candle, or that Ho! Ho! Ho! sign made from felt and yarn but make sure to handle them with care and place them strategically in your apartment home to avoid dangerous accidents. Some holiday decorations are more prone to burst out in flame if placed too close to a heat source while others like candles, are more obviously a threat if knocked over or left burning. Stockings by the fire really should be hung with care to avoid danger, better yet, find a different spot for them!

With a little thought and planning, it’s easy to make sure that the holidays will be merry and bright. Think through the types and placement of your holiday decor and take all the necessary precautions to avoid any fire hazards. We all know that getting the wrong present for the holidays is disappointing but imagine how depressing it would be to lose all of your presents to a holiday fire that could have easily been avoided!