A safe and festive holiday

It’s difficult to think of Christmas without the beauty of the lights, the decorated tree … and, of course, more lights.

Especially in the Upper Peninsula, when the darkness conveniently comes earlier in December to let those lights shine longer and that perfect fresh Christmas tree usually can be found easily and close by in the North Woods.

A few precautions are in order, however, to keep that glowing holiday display from turning into something more dangerous.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 40 percent of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.

And fighting or fleeing a fire is more difficult in December, with houses sealed up and the conditions outdoors less than ideal.

With all that in mind, here’s what the experts recommend for a safer Christmas:

— Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

— Before putting the tree in a stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.

— Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet from any heat source, such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

— Make sure that the tree is not blocking an exit.

— Add water to the tree stand daily. A dry tree is a fire waiting to happen.

— Use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory and indicate whether indoor or outdoor lights.

— Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturers’ instructions for number of light strands to connect.

— Never — big stress on never — use lit candles to decorate the tree.

— Always turn tree lights off when going to bed or leaving your home.

— Don’t overload the electrical socket.

— Make sure home smoke detectors are in working order and a fire extinguisher easily at hand.

— Discard the tree when it is dry, in an outside location. Ideally, find a local tree recycling program.

For more information on holiday safety, go to http://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Seasonal-fires/Winter-holiday-safety.