Follow these basic steps for Christmas-tree care to ensure freshness and safety: • Store the freshly cut tree outside or in an unheated...

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Follow these basic steps for Christmas-tree care to ensure freshness and safety:

• Store the freshly cut tree outside or in an unheated garage — away from sun and wind — until it’s ready to be decorated. Keep the base of the trunk in a pail of water.

• Before placing a cut tree in water, cut 1 to 2 inches from the trunk, exposing fresh wood that will allow the tree to take up water immediately. However, if a tree that you just cut from a choose-and-cut tree farm is immediately placed inside your home, it probably won’t need another cut.

• After the tree is set up inside, keep the stand filled with water so the tree won’t dry out. A tree can absorb a gallon or more of water during the first 24 hours after a cut is made, so a stand with a 1- or 2-gallon reservoir is best.

• A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree; this prevents the tree from absorbing water later when the tree stand is refilled. If a seal forms, you’ll need to make a fresh cut.

• Place the tree away from such heat sources as fireplaces, radiators and vents.

• Support your tree so that it won’t fall. A wire can be tied from an upper branch to a window latch, for example.

• Trim the tree with lights approved by Underwriters Laboratories. Check old lights for bare, broken or unsafe wiring and throw out damaged sets.

• Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Never use lighted candles as tree decorations. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, overloaded electric outlets and faulty wires are the most common causes of holiday fires in residences — not the trees.

• Turn off tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed.

• Don’t put breakable ornaments or ornaments with detachable parts on lower branches where young children or pets can reach them.

Information from The Detroit Free Press was included in this report