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It's time to give fire safety special consideration during the holiday season

How to reduce risk of home firesSafety might not be the first thing people think of as the holiday season approaches.

Faith, celebrations, decorations, and holiday dinners come to mind when considering the holiday season. But that doesn't mean safety should be left out of holiday planning.

Fire safety bears special consideration during the holiday season when the prevalence of fire hazards like Christmas trees, holiday lighting displays and other decorative items increase the risk of home fires. Such tragedies can be averted with a few simple safety measures.

Tend to your tree

Live Christmas trees are awe-inspiring, but they also pose a significant fire risk. The National Fire Protection Association urges celebrants to purchase only healthy trees with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Such trees are less likely to dry out, especially when well-watered throughout the season. Dry trees can catch fire more quickly than healthy trees if embers from nearby fireplaces or candles drift in their direction.

Recognize that location matters when decorating

The NFPA notes that Christmas trees should always be placed at least three feet away from any heat source, including fireplaces, space heaters, heat vents, candles, and even overhead lights. If decorating with candles, never place them on the tree or on tables where other flammable decorations have already been set. Chanukah menorahs should never be placed near curtains or other decorations.

Turn off your lights

In addition to extinguishing all lit decorative items when leaving home or going to bed, it's also a good idea to turn off any lights. Lit candles and menorahs should never be left unattended. The NFPA recommends turning tree lights and exterior decorative lights off when leaving home or going to bed.

Utilize a fire screen on fireplaces

Embers can catch on trees, decorations or anything else that's flammable if they escape the fireplace. Fire screens prevent that by ensuring embers from burning logs stay in the fireplace. Like candles and menorahs, fires burning in a fireplace should never be left unattended. Ensure all embers have been extinguished before leaving home or going to bed.

Keep discarded trees away from your home

A 2014 analysis from the NFPA found that none of the ten days with the largest share of Christmas tree fires were before Christmas. Dried-out trees still pose a fire risk even after they've been removed from a home. When discarding a tree at the end of the holiday season, place it at the curb or keep it a safe distance away from your home and garage until you can.

Fire safety measures are an essential component of the holiday season that can prevent this joyous time of year from turning tragic.

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