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Fire officials urge safety in holiday decorating

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department, Safe Kids USA, and the United States Fire Administration are reminding parents and caregivers to take precautions when decorating for the holidays, to avoid safety hazards.

Candles, Christmas trees, and other holiday decorations can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children, according to Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department.

One of the biggest contributing factors to fires during the holidays is the use of candles, fire officials said. "Never leave lit candles unattended," said Assistant Chief Jeff Hood, of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department, in a written statement.

"Do not use candles on a tree, or use them as a centerpiece with a natural wreath," Hood advised.

When using decorative lighting, be sure to inspect the wiring for frays or breaks, added Merkison.

Fire officials also offered the following recommendations for safe decorating during the holiday season:

* Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative display unattended.

* Natural trees always pose some risk of fire. Get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times.

* Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood, or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

* Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach them.

* Keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach, and do not leave alcoholic beverages unattended.

* When decorating the exterior of your home, always think before you act. A six-foot ladder placed on four, gallon buckets, does not make an eight-foot ladder.

"Remember that when decorating for the holidays, it's OK to deck the halls, just try not to burn them down," Merkison said.