‘Tis the season for celebrating, lit up by the merry, bright Christmas tree. When it comes to that beautiful yuletide tradition, choice and care matter. More than 200 Christmas trees start house fires every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), causing $16.2 million in direct property damage.

Moreover, these fires prove deadlier than most other home fires because the tree can flashpoint in less than a minute. “When it comes to a family escaping their home, seconds can count. One minute just isn't enough,” says the NFPA.

To keep your family safe, be sure to put these smart tips into play:

1. Keep candles and heating sources away from your tree. In one-quarter of Christmas tree fires and 80-percent of the deaths, a heat source, such as a candle or heating equipment, got too close to the tree, reports the NFPA. For this reason, set up the tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, lamps, etc. Never use lit candles on a tree.

2. When purchasing an artificial tree, know that the label “flame retardant” does not mean, “fire proof.” If exposed to a heat or fire source, these trees will burn. In fact, “artificial trees, particularly pre-lit artificial trees, can be a significant contributor to rapid fire growth in a room,” warns UL, making it essential to follow the tip above.

3. When choosing pre-lit artificial trees, look for the UL mark. When you’re buying a pre-lit artificial tree, look for the UL Mark on tree boxes or product description tags in stores and online. When you see the UL Mark, you can rest easier knowing your tree is certified by UL for fire and electrical hazards.

4. If you decide to purchase a live tree, buy the freshest. Recently cut trees prove less likely to catch fire, so look for vibrant green needles that don’t break easily from branches, advises the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA).

“You can grasp the tree by the trunk and tap the base of it against the ground. If a cloud of needles falls to the ground, then the tree is well on its way to being dead. The needles and branches should also be flexible when bent. If they break or don’t spring back into shape, then the tree is drying out. Another way to tell if a tree is still fresh and lively is by smelling the branches and trunk. If it still has that sappy, earthy smell, then the tree will probably last for several more weeks. If it’s odorless, give it a pass,” explains the ACTA.

5. Keep your live tree alive. Take the time to cut 1-2 inches from the base of the truck after you bring it home, and immediately place it in the a tree stand, advises NFPA. Keep the stand filled with water, and monitor it, as trees may use up to a gallon of water a day.

“As long as the tree can absorb and transpire water, it is reasonably fire-resistant… Overall, a good rule of thumb is to treat a green Christmas tree just like a fresh bouquet of cut flowers,” writes Steve Spangler, the scientist entertainer.

6. Choose safe lights. One-quarter of Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems, reports the NFPA. To protect your family, look for the holographic UL label on Christmas lights. Examine the lights for worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections, and toss damaged lights. When connecting multiple light strings, follow the instructions in the user manual about how many can be safely connected, as well as electrical rating requirements, advises UL.

Also, don’t use electrical ornaments or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings, warns the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

7. Nighttime means lights off. Turn your Christmas tree lights off each night and whenever you leave the house, advises NFPA, as you’re not there to notice any potential issues.

8. Know when to recycle the tree. When your tree begins to drop needles, recycle the tree. It’s too dry to keep inside your home, explains the ACTA. And leaving it for an extended period outside of your home can also cause a fire hazard, so properly dispose of a dried-up tree as soon as possible.

For many of us, the Christmas tree makes the holidays feel like the most wonderful time of the year. These Christmas tree tips will help keep your holidays safe, merry and bright.

Happy holidays from our family to yours!