Merry and bright

Published 10:16 am Friday, December 13, 2013

Frigid temperatures and festive lights can be a dangerous combination, making the Christmas season anything but merry for those who aren’t careful heating their homes and decorating their trees.

During 2011, fires caused by heating equipment accounted for 14 percent of all reported home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The same organization reports that an average of 150 home fires each year — resulting in $8.4 million in damage and nine deaths — involved decorative lights.

The NFPA offers a series of tips to help ensure your home is safe from home heating fires. Among them:

• Have your furnace inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.

• Have fireplace chimneys and vents inspected and cleaned of creosote buildup every year.

• Use only dry, seasoned wood in your fireplace.

• Use a covered, metal container to dispose of cooled fireplace ashes, and keep it at least 10 feet from your home’s structure.

• Keep children at least three feet away from fireplaces, wood stoves or portable heaters.

• Plug portable heaters directly into an outlet, not into an extension cord.

Similarly the NFPA offers suggestions to help improve the safety of your Christmas decorations, especially the Christmas tree.

• Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that don’t fall off when touched.

• Cut two inches from the base of the tree before putting it into the stand, and keep it at least three feet from any heat source.

• Add water to the tree stand every day.

• Be sure to use the right lights for the task. Some are for indoor use, and others are for outdoor use.

• Make sure your lights are in good condition. Discard any strings with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections, and don’t connect too many strings together.

• Never use candles to decorate a tree.

• Turn off lights when going to bed or leaving home.

And, of course, make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the home, inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.

Follow these tips to increase the likelihood that your Christmas season will be merry and bright.