BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The 2020 holiday season is underway, with decorations going up even earlier in hopes of sparking joy during hard times.

On Tuesday, there was an important reminder from fire officials that decking the halls can turn into a devastating house fire.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday, it takes just seconds for a holiday to turn into tragedy.

A Nassau County demonstration showed a live Christmas tree that was too dry, not properly watered, burning faster than paper.

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“It only takes 90 seconds for the whole room to go up,” said John Murry, Nassau County Firefighters Museum chief of fire safety.

Murry, a fire safety instructor, said tree selection is key. Tap the tree to the ground — if needles fall off, it’s too dry to buy. Immediately put your fresh tree into a pail of water, and hydrate daily.

Fire experts said it’s a fire hazard to put a fresh tree in the house now and leave it there for weeks.

“We recommend that thing stay in the house 10-14 days maximum and then out it goes. Remember that was alive, now it’s dead, and its drying out no matter what you do,” Murry said.

To avoid a disaster, position is also critical. Keep the tree at least five feet from a radiator, fireplace, exit staircase or any open flame.

So often, tragedy strikes this time of year.

“We will see an average of 7,900 homes catching fire because of candles, and on average there are about 200 fires that originate from Christmas trees nationwide,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Candles too, for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. In 2017, a menorah was blamed for igniting an inferno that killed a Brooklyn mother and her three children.

FLASHBACK: Community Mourns Loss Of Mother, 3 Kids In Sheepshead Bay Fire

“You can’t leave the room and have  a candle unattended. You definitely can’t leave the house and you definitely cant go to sleep with a candle lit. Things can happen even with the safest of candles,” said Assist. Chief Nassau Co. Fire Marshal Michael Uttaro.

Check holiday light wires for frays and cracks. Don’t overload outlets, and replace older bulbs, which burn hot with newer ones.

“Make sure that they are UL listed, in good shape, and when you plug them in they are not flickering,” Uttaro said.

And make sure smoke detectors are working on every floor — it’s the law, year round.

Here’s the complete list of tips from Curran’s office:

  •  Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
  • Never leave a lit candle, menorah or kinara unattended.
  • Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  • Fresh trees are less likely to catch fire, so look for a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don’t break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn’t be shedding its needles readily.
  • Always place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid a dry out.
  • Make sure all your indoor and outdoor Christmas lights have been tested in a lab by the UL or ETL/ITSNA for safety and throw out any damaged lights.
  • Keep all your holiday candles away from your Christmas tree, surrounding furniture and décor.
  • Don’t forget to turn your Christmas tree lights off each night.
  • The holiday season is a great time to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working.

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