While decorative lights and holiday decorations add to the splendor of the season, the El Paso Fire Department would like to remind the public that they can increase the risks of fire and electrical injuries if not used safely.

On average, over 200 home fires begin with Christmas trees each year, resulting in 12 deaths, 24 injuries and $16.4 million in property damage. The El Paso Fire Department recommends the following guidelines to help prevent fire hazards during the holiday season.

Candles

Avoid using candles when possible. Consider battery-operated candles as an option. If you choose to light candles, keep them away from combustibles like decorations and wrapping paper. Place candle displays in locations where they cannot be knocked over. Never use lighted candles on a tree or other greenery. Never leave candles unattended or near pets and children. And finally, extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to bed.

Christmas Trees

When using live trees, check for freshness. A fresh tree will stay green longer and is less of a hazard than a dry tree. Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. When using an artificial tree, choose those labeled “Fire Resistant”. Don’t use electrical ornaments or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings. Place trees at least three feet from all heat sources like fireplaces, radiators and space heaters. And finally, unplug tree lights when leaving the room or going to bed.

Lights/Electrical Decorations

Carefully inspect for cracked or frayed sockets, loose or bare wires and loose connections. Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. Only use lights approved by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s use and care instructions. Consider purchasing LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler than incandescent lights. If you choose to use incandescent lights, never string more than three strands together. Unplug electrical decorations when replacing bulbs or fuses. And finally, unplug all decorations when leaving the house or going to sleep.