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Prevent fire tragedy: Holiday safety tips

Posted: December 25, 2008 1:14 a.m.
Updated: December 25, 2008 1:20 a.m.
 
Los Angeles County Fire Department officials know the winter holidays are a time for celebration, which means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining and an increased risk of fire.

Each year, fires during the holiday season injure 2,000 people and cause more than $500 million in damage in the United States.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are simple life-saving steps one can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday.

* Keep tree away from heat
* Water a cut tree daily
* Use only fire-retardant decorations
* Never leave a lit tree unattended
* Unplug all lighting before retiring for the evening or leaving the house
* Blow out candles before leaving the room
* Check all lighting for frayed wires, broken plugs, sockets, etc.
* Never use candles on trees, near live or other flammable decorations
* Always use appropriate weatherproof lights outdoors.

It's especially dangerous to try to burn holiday gift wrappings in a residential fireplace, according to an L.A. City Fire Department spokesman.

Tossing wrapping paper into the fireplace is dangerous, and against the law, spokesman Brian Humphrey notes on the LAFD Web site.

So is trying to burn tree branches, scrap lumber or other items in fireplaces built to burn natural gas or dry firewood.

Trying to burn improper items can create an excessively large and hot fire that actually damages the fireplace and chimney or suddenly becomes uncontrollable, Humphrey notes.
 
Embers that bypass missing or damaged spark arresters can cause roof and attic fires that can destroy a home and everything in it within minutes.

Each year, people lose their homes to such fires, which often spread quickly.

Attempting to burn improper items in a fireplace can also cause noxious fumes that make people ill and harm the environment.

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