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A beautifully decorated Christmas tree, a warm space heater, and fragrant candles burning are great ways to enjoy your home during the holidays, but they can be dangerous if not used properly. The risk of a home fire typically increases in the U.S. around the winter holidays. In fact, a study conducted by the National Fire Protection Agency revealed 30 percent of reported home structure fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occurred in the winter months of December through February. Christmas trees, decorative lights, and candles are among the chief causes for home fires.

“During the winter season there are specific hazards that you must avoid to protect your family and prevent a fire in your home,” said Jacquie Simmons, Program Manager for Fire Safety at Safe Kids USA. “It’s important for parents to follow some very easy steps to ensure their decorations, candles, Christmas trees, and lights are safe. Also, no matter what the season, parents need to ensure that all home heating equipment and smoke alarms are working properly.”

Safe Kids USA offers these guidelines for parents to keep their home and family safe.

Eliminate Hazards

Keep matches, lighters and other fire sources out of children’s reach.

Keep clothing, furniture, newspapers or anything flammable at least 3 feet from a fireplace, heater or radiator.

Turn off all portable heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Never overload electrical outlets.

Replace old or frayed electrical wires and appliance cords, and do not cover them under rugs.

Store all flammable liquids, such as gasoline, outside and away from the home.

Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned every year.

Holiday Decorations

All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant, and keep them away from heat sources.

Do not burn wrapping paper or other packaging in the fireplace.


Candles should only be used under adult supervision.

Candles should be placed where they cannot easily be knocked over.

Candles should always be out of reach of children.

Never leave candles unattended.

Never put lit candles on a tree.

Christmas Trees

If using an artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Be sure a live tree is fresh; it will have green needles that do not easily fall off.

A live tree should only be used until it dries out, usually two weeks or less.

Do not place the tree close to a heat source including a fireplace which can dry out the tree quicker.

Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.

Holiday Lights

Check any lights you are reusing for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked parts, or excessive wear, and follow all instructions that accompany holiday lights.

Frequently check lights to ensure they are not becoming too hot.

Never leave holiday lights on unattended.

Keep all cords out of reach of children.

If using an extension cord, make sure you follow instructions for its use, and do not overload.

When using lights outdoors, make sure the lights have been certified for outdoor use.

Source: Safe Kids

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