Real Christmas trees require extra care to prevent them from becoming a fire hazard.

Now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over, it's time to put up the Christmas decorations including the tree.

For many families, an artificial tree will be the featured decoration but some families will go a more traditional route and choose a live tree.

A real tree requires more care than an artificial tree but for the purist, the real tree is the only way to go.

Because a real tree can catch fire, care needs to be taken to avoid any fire problems. The first safety factor with a real tree is selecting a tree that is fresh, said Pratt County Administrator of Emergency and Medical Services Mark McManaman.

When purchasing a tree, check the needles. If they snap and break or are falling off the tree, it is not fresh. Also check cuttings and real wreaths because they can dry out and catch fire too.

"They are extremely flammable," McManaman said.

Continue to check the tree for dry needles. If they get dry and start to fall off, it's time to take the tree out of the house even if it's not Christmas yet.

Real trees need a lot of moisture so it's important to keep it well watered after its set up in the home. If the tree is not set up immediately, set the tree in a bucket of water to help keep it hydrated. Before placing the tree in its stand, cut from one half to two inches off the bottom of the tree to help water absorption. Maintain a good water level in the base to help prevent the tree from drying out, McManaman said.

"The tree will absorb water quickly," McManaman said. "The more water the base holds the better."

Placement of the tree in the house is important. Avoid placing the tree near heat sources like fire places, radiators, floor vents, light fixtures including overhead units. These can dry out the tree and actually cause it to catch on fire. Also avoid areas with burning candles.

Another thing to consider when placing a tree is that it doesn't block doors or doorways.

When putting lights on the tree, check for bare wires, frayed or broken cords and loose bulb connections. Loose bulbs can arc that can set the tree on fire. These light issues can also cause problems for artificial trees.

When stringing lights together, take care no to overload the wiring capacity. Limit joined strings to three strands. Also check that extension cords are rated to handle the load and don't overload an outlet with too many cords. Make sure no rugs are on top of the cords. They can get hot and start a fire.

While the lights make bright display, it's important to always unplug or turn lights off anytime there is no one home or when the occupants are going to bed. There was an incident in Pratt County several years ago where a house burned to the ground when a family left the home for some time and didn't unplug the lights on a dry tree.

A couple of other safety features to consider are having access to a properly charged fire extinguisher. Also locate the breaker box that controls the outlet where tree lights are plugged in. Put a piece of masking tap on the breaker that identifies it as the one for the Christmas tree. Shutting off the electricity will stop arcing if there is a defective cord or light.

@GaleR_Tribune