By ROBERT S. MERRILL
Christmas is three weeks away and decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase chances of fire.
Franklin County Fire District Fire Marshal Scott Martin said following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles and Christmas trees from creating a tragedy. He issued the following suggestions:
• Don’t put a “live” Christmas tree up too early or leave it up for longer than four weeks. Make sure a fresh cut is made at the base of the tree before placing in a stand that has plenty of water. Keep checking the stand every day and add water as needed.
• Place trees away from heat sources, including fireplaces or heat vents. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
• Use only non-flammable decorations.
• Don’t link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it’s safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
• Avoid using real candles. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.
• Ensure that Christmas trees and other holiday decorations don’t block an exit way.
• Place a fire extinguisher near the tree for additional safety.
Martin said Christmas trees cause about 500 fires annually across the country and the resulting damage costs $20 million per year.
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