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The greatest gift of all: A safe and joyous Christmas season

12/17/2013, 6 a.m.

The winter months are a time of celebrations, family, food and gifts. Decorations are also one of the highlights of the holiday season. While candles, Christmas trees, and other decorations are part of the holiday spirit, they can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to young children.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top four days for candle fires are between Christmas and New Year’s. The National Fire Academy reports an estimated 250 home fires each year involving Christmas trees, 170 home fires involving holiday lights and several others involving decorative lighting.

“We don’t want anything to ruin the beauty of the season,” said Fire/EMS Chief William Goddard. “Give your family one of the greatest gifts of all— a safe and joyous holiday.”

When decorating around the home, keep these tips in mind:

•Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.

•Never leave lit candles unattended. Using battery-operated flameless candles is an alternative.

•Do not put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes, and be sure to keep matches and lighters locked out of children’s reach.

•If you would like decorative lighting, make sure it is labeled with the seal of an independent testing lab, and only use it outdoors if it’s labeled for outdoor use.

•Natural Christmas trees always involve a greater risk of fire. To minimize the risk, keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.

•Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.

•Water your tree daily. The water level must be maintained above the fresh cut.

•Open flames such as candles, lanterns, fireplaces, kerosene heaters, and gas fired heaters must not be located on or near Christmas trees or decorations of any type.

•Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.

•Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees.

•Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.

•Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.

For additional safety tips, visit our Facebook and Twitter pages (@HCDFRS).