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Tips to protect home from fires during holiday season

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

COAL CITY – Each year fires during the holiday season claim the lives of more than 400 Americans, injure 1,650 more and causes more than $990 million in damage. To help prevent this from happening in Coal City, the Coal City Fire Protection District will once again be asking to help “Keep the Wreath Red.”

On both fire stations a wreath with red lights is hung on the front facade. For every structure fire between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, a red light will be replaced with a white one. Over the past few years no lights have been changed and we hope to continue this tradition. To help do that, the fire district offers these tips.

• When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” This does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, but it will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

• When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull off and when bent do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, it should lose few needles. Place the tree away from fireplaces and radiators and keep its stand filled with water. Do not block doorways with the tree and keep it out of heavy traffic areas.

• Indoors or outside, only use lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.

• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.

• Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, walls or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks, which are available at hardware stores.

• Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave. The lights could short out and start a fire. For added electric-shock protection, plug outdoor lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be bought where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

• Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Use plastic tinsel or icicles, or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested.

• Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use nonflammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

• In homes with small children, avoid sharp or breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach to avoid a child swallowing or inhaling pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them. Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” If using snow sprays, follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation.

Chief James Sheldon and the Coal City Fire Protection District wish everyone a very safe holiday season.

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