Holiday fire safety urged this season (with video)

A Christmas tree goes up in flames during a fire drill.

A Christmas tree goes up in flames during a fire drill.

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The holiday season is here, and that means the sight of neighbors sorting through decorations and climbing ladders with lights in hand will be common for the next few weeks.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 12,000 people go to the emergency room each year because of holiday-related incidents, including electrical contact involving lights and decorations. These accidents shouldn’t be an annual tradition.

To help educate people about the importance of holiday safety, the Phoenix Fire Department and APS offer The 12 Electrical Safety Reminders of the Season.

• Turn off holiday lights before going to sleep or leaving the house unattended. An appliance timer can help manage holiday lights.

• When stringing lights outside, use a dry, wooden or fiberglass ladder and be sure to stay away from overhead power lines. In addition, keep all mylar balloons away from power lines, as the material will spark and could potentially cause a fire at first contact.

• Use only strings of outdoor lights, spotlights, sockets and extension cords approved by the Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL). Ensure they are not frayed or damaged.

• Never decorate, paint or cover electrical infrastructure, such as a transformer box or power pole that may rest in the front yard.

• Use more than one circuit to avoid overloading household wiring. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the number of light strings that can be connected safely.

• Consider using LED (light-emitting diode) holiday lights, which run much cooler than their traditional counterparts, are less of a fire risk and use much less energy.

• To reduce the risk of electrical shock, make sure that GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) protection is provided for outlets at outdoor receptacles and test the GFCI monthly to make sure it is working properly. If GFCI receptacles are not available, portable GFCI equipment may be used. The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that more than two-thirds of the 300 annual electrocutions nationwide could be prevented with the use of GFCI protection.

• Do not use candles near flammable materials or where they can be knocked over or reached by small children or family pets.

• There should be a smoke detector on every level of the house and outside each sleeping area. It also is important to have detectors installed properly and tested to ensure they are in working condition.

• If using a live Christmas tree, make sure to check the water level in the tree stand on a daily basis. If the tree appears to be losing a large amount of needles, or if the needles become brittle, do not turn on any electrical lights used for decorations. The heat from the lights may cause a fire.

• Avoid stringing any outdoor lighting or electrical cords where the water from irrigation or sprinklers may be present. Water and electricity do not mix and can cause serious injury or even death in these conditions.

• As a precaution, all homes should have at least one class ABC extinguisher, placed in an easily accessible area. An extinguisher with an ABC classification puts out all three types of fires: combustible-liquid fires; fires from burning wood, paper and cloth; and electrical fires. It is important to check the pressure in the extinguisher every month and refill or replace if it’s low. Know how to properly use the extinguisher.

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