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Safety tips for the holiday season

Staff reports • Dec 13, 2018 at 8:55 PM

NASHVILLE — The State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding Tennessee residents that holiday decorations, such as candles, outdoor displays and Christmas tree lights, can be dangerous when not used properly.

During a five-year period between 2013 and 2017, candles were reported to have caused 385 residential structure fires in Tennessee that resulted in eight civilian deaths, 28 civilian injuries, six firefighter injuries and $13 million in damages.

“Almost half of candle fires in Tennessee start because the candles were placed too close to flammable decorations,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak, who also serves as state fire marshal. “While decorations make our homes festive, they must also be placed with care.”

State officials offer the following advice for staying safe during the holidays:

• Use candles with caution. If possible, choose battery-powered flameless candles.

• Use nonflammable decorations, and place all decorations at least 3 feet from heat sources like fireplaces, space heaters or heating vents.

• Dispose of wrapping paper properly. Never place wrapping paper in a fireplace.

• If you use an auxiliary heater, be sure you are following all the safety precautions listed on the devices. That includes keeping the heater at least 3 feet from drapes, furniture, Christmas trees and other flammable materials.

• Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep, and turn the device off when you leave home.

• Don’t place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat or flames.

• Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

• Inspect all Christmas lights and electrical decorations annually for frayed wires, bare spots and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. And use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

• Never leave Christmas tree lights on unattended. Thirsty needles and hot lights could spell disaster.

• Keep escape routes clear. Never block exits with trees or decorations.

• Working smoke alarms never go out of season. Ensure you have working smoke alarms in each sleeping area, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home.

Many Tennessee fire departments offer smoke alarms for free as part of the “Get Alarmed, Tennessee” program. If you need alarms, call your local fire department to see what resources are offered in your area.

For more information on keeping your family fire safe this winter, visit tn.gov/fire.

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