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Practice safety in your Christmas preparations

November 30, 2012

This home on Garrett Street is all decorated for the Christmas season. Area residents are encouraged to practice safety as they make preparations for Christmas this year, both indoors and outdoors. PHOTO BY DON RICE

Holiday decorations, like candles, lights and Christmas trees, add a joyous and festive mood to the holiday season. But when these decorations are not used properly, they can cause fires, injuries and sometimes death.
To prevent these injuries, Hutchinson County Fire Marshal Danny Richards gave the county a few tips to follow when decorating this year.
“The top three things we see happen most is the misuse of light extension cords, live Christmas trees drying out, and the misuse of electric space heaters,” said Richards.
The fresh scent of a live Christmas tree can add beauty and tradition to the holidays. However, when left unattended with electrical lights and a lack of water, it can turn your celebration into tragedy. Following a few simple safety tips can help prevent holiday decoration-related fires.
Richards suggests following these tips to make your holiday a safe one.

Trees:
* Artificial trees are the best route. When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does show the tree is more resistant to burning.
*When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
*When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

Lights:
*Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
* If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended use.
* Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
* Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
* Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
* Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – this could cause stress on the connections that could create a fire hazard.

Fireplaces and space heaters :
* Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. Wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely, resulting in a flash fire.
* Place trees at least four feet away from fireplaces and space heaters.
* Place a screen around your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby flammable materials.

If a fire in your home begins due to decorations make sure to call your local fire department to get the fire out as soon and as safely as possible.

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