Fire officials urge safety during holidays

The National Fire Protection Association, and the Henry County Fire Department, are warning residents of potentially hazardous items frequently used during the holiday season.

During the 2010 holiday season, nationally, 15,670 structure fires were caused from Christmas trees, decorative lighting, and candles –– and 188 people died. Another 1,331 fire injuries were associated with improper trees, holiday lighting, and candle care, according to officials.

Holiday lights, and other decorative lighting, are part of an average of 150 home fires per year. They cause an average of eight civilian deaths, 14 injuries, and $8.5 million in damages, according to national fire officials.

“At the top of the list of fire safety tips, is a properly functioning smoke alarm,” said Henry County Fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett. “A smoke alarm can more than double the chance of surviving a fire, and should be in existence in every home.”

Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for the National Fire Protection Association, said it is important to follow basic safety steps, so celebrations go off without a hitch.

Here are few:

• Do not place your tree close to a heat source, or a heat vent;

• Don’t burn tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood stove;

• Keep trees watered; When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly;

• Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wire, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up;

• Only use UL approved lighting;

• Don’t overload outlets; Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet;

• Don’t leave fireplaces or space heaters unattended;

• Avoid using lit candles; If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked over; and don’t leave home with a candle burning,

• Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home; Test the batteries every month and change them at least once each year.