‘Tis the season to prevent holiday decoration fires

Most home fires involving candles happen in December, when one in five home decoration fires also occur.

File Photo by Lee Krohn.

“As more of us light candles to celebrate the holidays, we want to ensure everyone stays safe from home fires — the nation’s most frequent disaster,” said John Montes, of the Red Cross. “Help protect your family by using battery-operated candles, testing your smoke alarms monthly and practicing your two-minute escape plan with everyone in your household.”

Follow these safety tips and visit the Red Cross website for more information, including an escape plan to practice with your family:

• If you must use candles, keep them away from anything that could burn, and place them out of reach from pets and children. Never leave burning candles unattended.

• Check all holiday light cords to ensure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together — no more than three per extension cord.

• Ensure outside decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.

• If buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat. Never use electric lights on metallic trees.

• If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. To test if the tree is fresh, bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.

• Don’t light the fireplace if hanging stockings or other decorations on the mantel.

You can also download the free Red Cross emergency app by searching “American Red Cross” in app stores.

(Mary Brant is regional communications manager with the American Red Cross’ northern New England region.)