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Tis the season for fire safety
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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano reminds residents to follow seasonal precautions to ensure a safe and happy holiday.

Each holiday season, fires claim the lives of over 400 Americans, injure 1,650 more and cause over $990 million in damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. That’s reason enough to review some basic holiday fire prevention tips, Napolitano said. Here are four ares to consider:

• Holiday lights — "The biggest thing we’ve seen in past (holiday fires) is electrical overload," Napolitano said. Inspect lights each year for frayed wires and other wear. Don’t overloads electrical outlets; don’t link more than three light strands unless the directions indicate it’s safe. Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories, both indoors and outside, Napolitano said. "If you have to use extension cords, you want to make sure they’re the proper size."

• Candle care — "Never, never leave burning candles unattended," says Cherie Sage, state director of Safe Kids Kansas. "Don’t put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes. Keep matches and lighters locked out of reach."

The National Fire Protection Agency reports that decorations are often the first items ignited in a home fire, and half of those fires occurred because the decoration was too close to a heat source — often a candle. The top five days for home candle fires were Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, Halloween and Dec. 23.

No wonder Napolitano and other firefighters recommend keeping any open flame away from Christmas trees, curtains and decorations. Battery-operated flameless candles are an alternative that do not have a fire risk. If candles are used, make sure they are in stable holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.

• Decorations — Use only nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations, including artificial trees, and place them away from heat sources. Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace, because it can result in a very large fire, throwing off sparks and embers that could cause a chimney fire.

• Christmas trees — Select a fresh tree by bouncing it on the ground. If a lot of needles fall off, it has probably dried out and is a fire hazard. Don’t place the tree close to a heat source. Keep the tree stand filled with water, and don’t leave the tree up for more than two weeks. Dispose of the tree by taking it to the compost site; never put the branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.