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Think safety first when putting up decorations

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Staying safe: Remember to keep your tree base filled with water at all times and away from heat sources. Routinely examine decorations, whether new or old, for potential safety hazards.
Staying safe: Remember to keep your tree base filled with water at all times and away from heat sources. Routinely examine decorations, whether new or old, for potential safety hazards.

GREENFIELD — As area residents get into the holiday spirit, local officials are reminding them to celebrate safely.

As decorations go up, so does the danger for household fires, Greenfield Fire Chief James Roberts said this week.

“More typically, house fires across the nation are in your cold months,” Roberts said.

December and January are the most common times of year for home fires, deaths and injuries, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Dried-out Christmas trees, overloaded electrical outlets and open flames from holiday candles are just a few holiday hazards to watch out for, Roberts said.

“Everybody wants their house to be beautiful during the holidays,” he said. “You don’t really think about what might happen if it goes wrong.”

Christmas trees need watered frequently, especially after they are first cut, to keep their needles from drying out. While Christmas lights might not seem like a danger, they can quickly become one when wrapped around a dry tree. And don’t trust your eyes, either, when deciding whether a tree needs water, said Roberts, who recommends watering the tree daily.

“It doesn’t have to turn brown to be dry,” he said.

Greenfield has been lucky when it comes to Christmastime tragedies, added fire investigator Brett Towle, but he said that’s no reason to let your guard down when taking safety precautions.

“That’s all it takes is one,” he said.

As a fire inspector for the department, Towle is accustomed to recognizing potential fire hazards.

One of the most common is an overloaded electrical outlet, he said. And if two outlets in the same room are connected to the same circuit, that doubles the danger.

But the fix is easy, Towle said. Buy a surge protector, and plug your holiday lights and other decorations into it instead of directly into the outlet.

“If a circuit overloads, it stops there instead of traveling farther,” he said. “It’ll cut the power to the lights and whatever we’re using.”

And if a circuit is tripped, there is a reason, added Roberts. Don’t just assume it’s fine to turn it back on.

“A lot of people will (say), ‘Well, popped a breaker,’ (and) go turn it back on,” Roberts said. “Next thing you know, the house is on fire.”

Even those who haven’t done their decorating yet should keep a few safety tips in mind, officials say.

►Don’t work alone: If something happens – you fall from a roof or receive a shock from a faulty wire – you need someone who can immediately call for help.

►Don’t overdo it: People with existing medical problems should not overexert themselves while hanging lights or decorations. Play it safe – ask a relative for help or consider hiring someone.

►Use extension cords sparingly: Attaching too many together can overload a circuit. Also, make sure you’ve checked to see if yours are appropriate for indoor or outdoor use. Using the wrong type can cause a fire.

►Turn it off: Don’t leave Christmas lights and other decorations on if you’re headed to bed.

►Go little: Mini Christmas lights don’t burn as hotly as traditional larger bulbs and thus pose less risk of a fire.

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