ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is encouraging people to remove Christmas trees from their homes promptly after the holidays. Nearly 30% of home fires in the United States involving Christmas trees occur in January, according to NFPA.

“As much as we all enjoy the look and feel of Christmas trees in our homes, they’re large combustible items that have the potential to result in serious fires,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “The longer Christmas trees remain in homes, the longer they present a risk.”

According to the latest NFPA winter holiday fire data, 160 home structure fires began with Christmas trees, resulting in two civilian deaths, 12 civilian injuries, and $10 million in property damage, on average each year between 2015 and 2019.

Fresh Christmas trees, which dry out and become more flammable over time, are involved in more tree fires than artificial trees. To safely dispose of a tree, NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program. Trees should not be put in the garage or left outside.

NFPA also offers suggestions for safely removing lighting and decorations:

  • Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet.
  • As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.
  • Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.

More information about fire safety can be found on the NFPA website.