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FIRE SAFETY: Important come the holiday season

The holiday season is a festive time of year. Gifts under the tree and a house filled with decorations help get people in the holiday spirit, but those same decorations can be safety concerns as well.

Christmas lights, the Christmas tree and decorations around the home pose significant safety risks during the holiday season, when homeowners must emphasize fire safety as much as they do the festivities. The following are a few tips to ensure your holidays are as fire-free as they are festive.

Inspect decorative lights. Stringing up holiday lights is a tradition for many families, but those lights can pose a significant safety risk. Before getting to work on this year's lighting display, inspect both the old lights and any news one you might have just purchased. Inspect the lights for bare spots, cracks and frayed wires. Once the lights are strung up, periodically inspect them to see if they're burning too hot. If they are, this could increase the risk of fire.

Use only flame retardant decorations. A home is not necessarily an ideal place to hang decorations, as vents and other areas can be hot to the touch, raising the risk of fire when decorations are near. It's best to keep decorations as far away from vents as possible, and only use flame retardant decorations around the house.

Don't leave lights on when no one is home. In addition to being a less than financially sound decision, leaving decorative holiday lights on when no one is home is a significant safety risk. Whether making a holiday trip to Grandma's or a quick jaunt to the grocery store, make sure the holiday lights are not on when no one is home.

Make sure the tree is watered.A dry Christmas tree poses a significant fire risk. When choosing a tree, find one that is freshly cut. A freshly cut tree should feel sticky and its needles won't break. In addition, a freshly cut tree won't be as dry, making it less likely to catch on fire. Once the tree is home, immediately cut a few inches from the trunk so it can easily absorb water. Christmas trees consume a good deal of water, so be sure to adequately water the tree throughout the season so it says hydrated and does not become a significant fire risk.

Don't overdo it with decorative candles. Candles as decorative items are popular during the holidays, but it's important that homeowners don't overdo it with candles. Even decorative candles can be dangerous, so limit how many candles you include in your holiday decorations, and never place candles near the Christmas tree. If your home has young children, choose electric candles instead of traditional ones. Kids are curious and they might burn themselves or tip candles over, so steer clear of decorative candles until kids are older. If you do decorate with traditional candles, make sure they are extinguished each night before going to bed.