Keep Your Christmas Merry With a Real Tree

December 13, 2006 - Posted at 9:12 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- Christmas trees used indoors for the holidays account for approximately 400 fires annually and more than $15 million dollars in property damage. Every year there are more than 80 injuries and 10 people die from fires started by dry Christmas trees... but it's a statistic that can be prevented with a few simple tips.

"It's the one time of year when it really adds to the ambience of the house," said K8 Photojournalist Keith Boles.

Boles and his son Hayden don't want to see their hard work go up in smoke...but it's what can happen in less than a minute to a dry Christmas tree.

But by taking the right precautions can keep your Christmas merry.  Start by buying a fresh tree...check the needles to make sure they don't brake or fall off easily.

"When you get home, it's always good to make sure the trunk is tacky when you buy it, cut a couple of inches off of the trunk and make sure you use a stand that will hold plenty of water," said Division Chief and Jonesboro Fire Marshal Stan May.

One product on the market to help you figure out if you've got enough water in your tree is the Christmas Tree "dipstick."  You just put it in the tree and it tells you how much water you've got left to keep your tree from getting dry.

"We even have a tree preservative that we put in there, I'm not sure if it does any good, it smells like soap.  But it seems to work and so far the tree is holding up really good this year," remarked Boles.

Keep the tree away from heat sources and check the water level daily.

"Make sure your lights are U-L listed. You never want to hook more than three strands of lights together at one time, unless it's recommended by the manufacturer," said May.

And if it's all too much can always go fake.

"There's a lot of things to be said for a fake Christmas tree, but next year, when time comes again, as much as I protest, we'll probably still wind up getting a fresh tree again," said Boles.

About 35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States every year.