2008-12-25 / Features

Keep Your Holidays Festive And Fire-Free

Decorating the house is a tradition shared by many families come the holiday season. Whether you keep it simple with a just a tree and a wreath on the front door, or follow Clark Griswold's lead and string up enough lights to see your home from outer space, chances are you'll be doing some decorating this holiday season.

While decorating is a festive way to enjoy the spirit of the season, it's important to consider safety when decking the halls. One of the biggest safety risks each holiday season is fire. Lights on the house and the addition of a tree inside can be serious fire hazards, so be sure to consider the following ways to fireproof your home when decorating this season.

Inspect old and new lights. For some families, the holiday lights are akin to an heirloom, handed down from one generation to the next. If you're using older lights, be sure to check for frayed wires, cracks and bare spots.

Newer lights can have problems, too. Check wires periodically to be sure they're not too warm. If they feel overly warm, that could be a significant fire hazard.

Turn the lights off when leaving the house or going to sleep. While it's nice to display your lights for the neighbors, it's also a safety hazard to leave them on when you're not home or when you're sleeping. Even if you're just making a quick trip to the grocery store, the lights should be turned off. No matter how quick that trip might be, it doesn't take nearly as much time for a fire to start and do some serious damage to your home.

Make sure decorations are flame retardant. Decorations are often placed throughout a home. This can include near heating vents and even within reach of lights on the tree. Never place decorations too close to either the vents or the tree, and make sure anything you hang around the house is flame retardant. While decorations made by the kids at school might be nice, they're probably not resistant to flames. Hang them on the refrigerator door instead.

Be cautious with candles. Candles are also very popular during the holiday season. Unfortunately, candles are as dangerous as they are popular. If decorating with candles, make sure they're always placed in stable holders, and far away from the Christmas tree and other flammable items. And just like with the lights, be sure all candles are extinguished whenever going to sleep or leaving the house, regardless of how long you'll be gone.

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