WHAT OTHERS SAY: A crackling fire can be cozy — or dangerous

Thursday, December 22, 2011 | 3:31 p.m. CST

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire." "But the fire is so delightful." "As we dream by the fire."

Countless Christmas carols link the winter holiday to the cozy warmth of a fire. But Christmas decor and activities also can lead to destructive and deadly house fires, warns State Fire Marshal Randy Cole.

Nationwide, candles are responsible for 15,000 residential fires annually, resulting in more than 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries and more than $500 million in property damage, the U.S. Fire Administration reports.

Each year, Christmas trees cause an average of 240 residential fires nationally, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Also associated with the holiday is cooking, which the association reports is responsible for two of every five home fires.

Cole recommends following U.S. Fire Association precautions, which include:

  • Don’t use real candles as part of decorations.
  • Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not place an electrical cord under a rug.
  • To minimize the risk associated with natural-cut Christmas trees, make sure the tree is fresh when purchased and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks or look like food or candy on the lower branches. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level and keep lights out of reach.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.
  • Keep children and adults not assisting with food preparation out of the kitchen. A crowded kitchen can increase the danger of spills and burns.
  • Be prepared to deal with potential cooking fires. Remember never to put water on a grease fire.

Cole also reminds everyone at this time of year to check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as fire extinguishers, to make sure they are working properly.

Another familiar Christmas lyric reminds us we'd "better watch out."

Watching out helps prevent dangerous house fires during the approaching holidays.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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