How to keep your Christmas tree brightly lit without starting a fire

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Christmas trees are merry and bright but a fire hazard as well if not properly maintained.
Source: Shutterstock via CNN (only use for this story)

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(CNN) -- It's Christmas time! We know you're probably not taking down that Christmas tree for another few months. Now's a good time to learn how to keep your tree and home safe from fires.

Between 2013 and 2017, US fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires per that started with Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Those fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in direct property damage each year, according to the association.

For anyone celebrating the holiday season with a natural or artificial tree, here are some ways to keep your Christmas tree brightly lit while staying safe.

**Check out the video, above, for a warning about what could be hiding in your tree**

Keep trees away from heat

One tip from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) is to make sure a tree is far away from any heat source. This includes candles, radiators, stoves, fireplaces and open flames.

Smokers should never light up near a Christmas tree.

Make sure you're using the right lights

A Christmas tree isn't complete without the glittering lights. But always make sure the lights are labeled "UL" or "FM," meaning they've met current safety requirements. When positioning the tree, try to put it close to an electrical outlet to minimize the use of extension cords.

Tree lights should be examined for frayed wires and damaged plugs. While the more the merrier, it is important not to overload electrical outlets or run wires under carpets or rugs.

If you're using an artificial metallic tree, only use remote spot or reflective lights, not electric lights.

For candle fanatics, keep them somewhere else. Lighted candles should never be placed on trees.

And before heading to bed or leaving the house, make sure you turn off those lights.

If you're using a real tree

I know you're attached to your fancy Christmas tree. If you are using a natural Christmas tree, make sure you're buying a fresh tree, so the needles aren't falling out easily. And once those needles start falling out, immediately dispose of the tree.

The FDNY recommends that natural trees should be kept for no longer than two weeks.

For natural tree aficionados, it's important to cut "one inch from base of tree to allow water absorption" and always keep the water receptacle under the tree full.

Never block exits

The FDNY urges everyone this holiday season to make sure doors, stairs, hallways, and fire escapes are not blocked by holiday decorations.

Never place decorations or a Christmas tree in front of an exit.

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