According to the National Fire Protection Association, four out of seven home fires occur December through February. The statistics from the NFPA also indicate approximately half of these fires are caused by using unattended candles and overloading electrical circuits. As families turn to alternative heating sources, either out of necessity or to avoid the rising costs of oil and gas, there is an increased risk of accidental fires in the home.

To prevent thousands of injuries and numerous deaths, Americans must begin taking precautions, such as keeping candles away from Christmas trees and curtains; never leaving children unattended in a room with lighted candles; and always keeping candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children.

The American Red Cross recommends the following safety tips for a safe and joyous holiday season:

• Keep Christmas trees fresh by watering daily. Place tree away from heat sources and exits.

• Make sure the artificial tree is fire-retardant.

• Decorate tree and home only with flame-retardant or non-combustible material. Avoid using candles during parties.

• Check ashtrays, upholstery and trash cans for smoldering cigarette butts after any holiday party.

• Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves.

• Have chimney connections and flues inspected by a professional and professionally cleaned if necessary, prior to the start of the heating season. Burn only wood – never burn paper, including discarded gift wrap, or pine boughs. Do not use the fireplace for fires if stockings are hung on place.

• Pets deserve a special gift during the holidays. Pet First Aid, developed by the Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States, is an important guide to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to the emergency needs of their pets. Contact the local American Red Cross to purchase a copy.

• Enroll in a First Aid course. Although these tips can help prevent an emergency, it is also important to be prepared should an emergency situation arise. To enroll, contact the local American Red Cross.

– Installation Safety Office