The Santa Barbara County Fire Department wishes community members a safe and happy holiday season, and offers the following tips with regards to Christmas trees and fire safety:

• When buying a live tree, look for signs of freshness. A fresh tree is green, the needles will be difficult to pull from branches, and a minimum number of needles should fall off.
• To keep the tree fresh, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption, and check the water level daily. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
• When placing a tree in the home, make sure it is kept away from heat sources like fire places or heater vents. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
• Make sure no exits are blocked by the tree.
• Check lights before placing them on the tree. Look for worn or frayed wires and broken bulbs.
• When you leave your home or go to sleep at night, turn off the lights on the tree.
• Dispose of the tree properly. 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 the tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community curbside pick-up service.
• Check smoke detectors to make sure they are installed and working properly.
• Create and practice a fire escape plan.