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Fire officials urge locals to use caution with holiday decorations

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Fire Service is reminding residents of the dangers of home fires, which historically increase during the holiday season and periods of extreme cold weather. This year, both risks seem to be prevalent and warnings are being issued.

"Each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 Americans, injure 1,650 more and cause over $990 million in damage," said Lt. Cydnie Taylor, fire safety educator for NCFS.

Taylor offered several life-saving steps from the U.S. Fire Administration, which urges residents to take to protect themselves and their families.

"By following some of the precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty." she said.

Preventing Christmas tree fires:

* Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches and the needles 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 many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.

* Do not place the 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.

* Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.

* Never put lit candles on a tree or go near a Christmas tree with an open flame -- that includes candles, lighters and matches.

* Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

* When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.

* Never dispose of the tree by putting branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. The best way to dispose of a tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

Holiday lights:

* Maintain your holiday lights by inspecting them 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.

* Do not overload electrical outlets.

* Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.

* Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.

* Make sure to periodically check the wires -- they should not be warm to the touch.

* Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.

Misc. holiday tips:

* Use only nonflammable or flame retardant decorations and place them far away from heat sources.

* Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace as it can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.

* Avoid using lit candles. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily turned over. Never leave the house with candles burning.