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Three Holiday Hazards and How to Avoid Them

The holidays are a very busy time of the year. There is the decorating, parties and traveling to visit family and friends.

It is also a very busy time for firefighters and emergency medical personnel who deal with holiday-related fires, falls and other emergencies.

1. Christmas Tree Fires Uncommon But Deadly

Tree fires are rare but unusually dangerous in the home, the National Fire Protection Association said.

U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 tree-related fires a year between 2006 and 2013, the NFPA said. However, 1 out of 63 tree fires resulted in death as compared to 1 death out of 144 total home structure fires.

Picking a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched is an important step in the tree care process, the NFPA said.

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

Members of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association and other vendors sell as many as 34,000 trees during the Christmas season, association president Eldon Clawson said.

An extended drought has been gripping Kansas, but it has not affected the Kansas Christmas tree industry.

"This year we have had adequate moisture at very important times," Clawson said. "We have gone into the fall with some subsoil moisture making its way to the deep roots of the trees. Therefore, the needles (green part we see) are green and fresh, making for a hardy looking tree."

The standard tree care tips apply for all trees, whether they come from a drought-affected area or not.

"Just use the standard measures such as keeping the tree well watered as it sits in the tree stand," he said. "Don't place a tree near a heat source."

2. Falls Common During Holidays

More than 6,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year due to holiday-decorating falls, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Nearly 50 percent of the holiday falls were from ladders while decorating outside, the CDC said. Falls were also reported as a result of people falling off furniture while doing indoor decorating.

Use the "buddy system" when using a ladder or climbing on a roof with an adult holding the ladder steady on the ground, the American College of Emergency Physicians said.

Move the ladder if you need to reach out to the right of left and never stand on the top two rungs of the ladder.

3. Pet-Safe Holiday Starts with Plants, Decorations

One of the great myths of the holiday surround poinsettias and whether they are dangerous or even deadly.

Despite that myth, poinsettias are not deadly, Dr. Tina Wismer of the Animal Poison Control Center for the American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) said.

They can cause mild vomiting and drooling for pets, but they are not highly toxic, Wismer said.

Mistletoe and holly can actually cause more problems.

"Mistletoe can cause vomiting, diarrhea and heart problems, while holly can cause severe gastrointestinal signs," Wismer said. "Fortunately, both of these plants are not tasty, and dogs and cats usually only ingest a small amount. They are much more dangerous for grazing animals like horses or cattle."

Christmas tree decorators should also take care to keep their trees safe for pets.

Some animals are attracted to shiny things; this is especially true for the felines in the household.

"It is always a good idea to keep tinsel away from pets. If swallowed, tinsel could pose a serious risk for choking or intestinal obstruction," she said. "Non-breakable ornaments should be used on the tree until you can get assurance that your cat or dog will not try to climb or knock over the tree and try to eat or chew on them."