Winter is the leading time of year for home fires in the U.S., and those dangers intensify during the holiday season.

According to data from the National Fire Protection Association, //www.nfpa.org, each year, hundreds of home fires involving Christmas tree or holiday lights or candles occur – resulting in death and injury as well as millions of dollars in direct property damage.

To stay safe, consumers should follow some simple safety tips, courtesy of the U.S. Fire Administration:

  • Check holiday light carefully for damage.  Look for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets.
  • Never leave lights on unattended.
  • Before stringing lights on outdoor trees, make sure tree limbs haven’t grown near power lines.
  • Use LED lights. In addition to being shatterproof and shock- resistant, LED lights produce almost no heat, reducing fire risks.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets – never link more than three light strands. Make sure to periodically check wires, they should never be warm to touch.
  • Lights hung outside the house should be approved for outdoor use.
  • Do not string more lights than the number of lights recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace, this can ignite a large fire and emit dangerous sparks and embers

If you put up a natural Christmas tree, adhere to these safety guidelines:

  • The higher the moisture content, the less likely the tree is to dry out and become a fire hazard: select a tree with needles that do not pull easily from its branches or break when bent.
  • Clean the tree stand with a mixture of one cup water and a capful of bleach.
  • Keep the tree fresh by cutting the trunk diagonally one or two inches above the old cut and immediately place it in water.
  • Maintain the water level in the tree stand above the cut line.
  • Use commercial floral preservative in the water.
  • Place the tree away from heat sources.
  • Heaters should be turned down or off when leaving the house.
  • Remove the tree as soon as possible after the holidays.
  • Use only nonflammable decorations.
  • Never burn a tree in the fireplace or a woodstove. The best way to dispose of it is to haul to a  recycling center.

Every homeowner should install working smoke alarms on all levels of the home – test monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. This is important any time of the year!

Most importantly, know when and how to call for help. And remember to develop and practice a home escape plan!

For more details about staying safe all winter long, visit //www.nfpa.org or //www.usfa.fema.gov.

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