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Posted: December 12, 2013 9:04 p.m.

Up in smoke

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There was a big Christmas tree fire Wednesday afternoon on Pace Street. Luckily, it was started by firefighters.

The Covington Fire Department lit the Christmas tree on fire, complete with lights and ornaments and presents under the tree, to film a public service announcement to warn about the potential dangers of real trees.

Covington Fire Safety Education Specialist Jonathan Fuqua said the most important thing is to make sure your tree doesn’t dry out. No matter when your tree is cut, it’s important to make fresh cuts to the base – with a serrated knife or saw, or make a whole new cut – to make sure the sap hasn’t completely covered the base, Fuqua said, quoting Chuck Berry, owner of Berry’s Christmas Tree Farm.

Water needs to be added to a tree stand every day to prevent the tree from drying out, Fuqua said, noting trees "drink" 1 to 2 gallons per day. If a person shakes a tree and needles fall off, the tree is dried out and at risk of catching fire, he said.

Consumers should make sure their light strands and electrical cords are not frayed and make sure no  bulbs are broken. Fuqua said to make sure that fireplaces and even furnaces are not blowing air directly onto the tree, noting that even sunshine can heat up and prematurely dry out a tree.

Christmas tree lights should be turned off overnight, and there should be a smoke detector in the room where the tree is located, Fuqua said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association website, between 2007 and 2011, an average of 230 home fires nationally started with Christmas trees. One in every 40 of those fires resulted in a death, higher than the normal average for home fires, which is one of every 142 fires.

For more information go to NFPA.org and find the "Christmas Tree Fires" page.

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