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Don’t let a fire ruin your holiday

Winter is the peak season for home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Agency and the U.S. Fire Administration.

Cooking and home heating are the leading causes of fire during the winter months. Candles, decorations and Christmas trees are among other cause of fires during the last two months of the year.

The joy of the holidays can quickly turn to tragedy if simple safety precautions aren’t taken with decorations.

Christmas trees and decorations contribute much to the holiday spirit but also can be a danger.

Between 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in direct property damage annually. On average, one of every 52 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires.

If you are purchasing a live Christmas tree, make sure to purchase a fresh one.

The U.S. Fire Administration reported needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.

The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If too many needles drop, the tree has been cut too long and has probably dried out. That tree can be a fire hazard.

Do not place a tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Fire officials recommend not putting up a live tree too early. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

The fire administration also recommends inspecting holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory and don’t overload electrical outlets. The NFPA reports that one-third of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.

Only use approved outdoor lights on the exterior of the home, and follow the recommendation of manufacturers when it comes to connecting multiple strings of lights together. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires. The wires should not be warm to the touch, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Unattended children tend to get into trouble and the danger is increased at the holidays. Children are drawn to candles and decorative lighting. Candle fires peak this time of year, and the worst days for them are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve. They lead to 2 percent of reported home fires, 3 percent of home fire deaths and 6 percent of home fire injuries.

Cooking fires also greatly increase around the holidays. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve come right behind Thanksgiving and the day before Thanksgiving when it comes to holiday fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Make sure smoke detectors are properly working and have the family practice escape routes from different rooms of the house.

And, above all, make sure to hang stockings, lights and holiday decorations with care this year. Your caution can help to prevent a fire that could cause damage to property and, sadly, could prove to be deadly.

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