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Holiday decorations, like candles and Christmas trees, add to the festive mood of the season; but when decorations are not used properly, they can result in fires, personal injury and death. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging families to keep safety in mind when stringing holiday lights, purchasing Christmas trees, and lighting candles this holiday season. It seems every year, that I read about a fire or personal injury in Orange County California, caused by decorations.

CPSC estimates there are more than 14,000 candle-related fires each year, which result in about 170 deaths and $350 million in property loss. Dried-out Christmas trees are involved in about 200 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, and about $10 million in property damage. During November and December of each year, about 12,800 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms as a result of falls, cuts, shocks and burns related to holiday decorating.

Just last week an Aliso Viejo man, Christopher Shifter, went up to hang his Christmas lights

and lost his footing and fell 25 feet down to the bushes below. He later died at the Mission Hospital from a traumatic head injury. Fortunately, most accidents don’t end so tragically, but depending on your age and health, any fall can be potentially serious. If you still want the beautiful lights on your home, consider one of the growing professionals who install Christmas lights for you. The prices usually range from $3-400 dollars, but it might be worth it.

The second major hazard during the Christmas season are house fires, due in great part to tree fires and candles left unattended. The CPSC has put together some safety tips for you to have a Happy Holiday season:

Trees and Decorations:
· When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.
· When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
· When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways.

· Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA. Use only newer lights that have thicker wiring and are required to have safety fuses to prevent the wires from overheating.
· Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets.
· If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended use.
· When using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacles or a portable GFCI.
· Keep burning candles within sight.
· Keep lighted candles away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.
· Always use non-flammable holders and keep away from children and pets.
· Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room or leave the house.
For a full list of safety tips, you can download a free brochure with holiday decorating safety tips at CPSC’s web site.

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