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Almost everyone has seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and while we laughed when Uncle Lewis burned down the tree, we wouldn’t be laughing were this to happen in real life. In addition to keeping lit cigars (and Uncle Lewis) away from your tree, there are some other things you can do to minimize the chances of a holiday gone up in smoke.

First, check your building’s by-laws and house rules, as they may have restrictions on the type of tree you can bring in,  or restrictions on voltage for certain decorations.  Second, when bringing a tree in or taking it out of your apartment, be mindful of its size and potential needles and water spills. If your building has a freight elevator, make use of it.  In addition, alert your building’s staff that you’ll be carting your majestic pine through the halls so that they can take protective measures in advance. Staff may also be able to assist you with properly wrapping and disposing of your tree, or at least advise you how to do so yourself. Third, when it comes to decorating your tree, keep open flames away from it, particularly candles.  Fourth, make sure that you have confirmed, in advance, the number of light strands you can connect to each other.

Last but not least, be mindful and do not leave your decorations burning when you go to sleep or leave the house. Although timers are fantastic and efficient devices, if you plan to be out of the house or out of town, make sure your decoration timers are set to off until you return – or better yet – just turn the whole system off. Ensure that your smoke detector has fresh batteries and is operational, and that all power strips and extension cords are Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certified.  Wishing you and yours a peaceful and hazard-free Holiday Season.

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