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State Fire Marshal Offers Holiday Fire Safety Tips


TALLAHASSEE - Last year in Florida, there were more than two dozen home fires involving holiday decorations, so Florida Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher is urging residents to think about safety as they prepare for this year's holiday season.

Some of the most common causes of holiday fires are sparks that may be emitted from a short in electric lights, which can ignite a dry tree, and candles left to burn unsupervised.

Following are some important holiday fire safety tips:

· If decorating with an artificial tree, be sure that it is fire resistant.

· If decorating with a metallic tree, do not use electric lights.

· If choosing a live tree, make sure it is fresh and green. The needles should not drop off when pulled or when the tree is shaken, nor should the needles bend or break. The bottom of the trunk should be sticky with resin.

· Use a stand that holds at least a gallon of water and make sure that there is always water in it. Check the water daily.

· Make sure the tree is well supported and keep it out of the path of traffic, away from doors and any source of heat such as a fireplace, radiator, or portable heater.

· Use only UL-listed lights, and no more than three sets strung together.

· Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.

· Unplug the lights before replacing bulbs and be sure to use the right wattage.

· Keep tinsel away from bulb sockets and out of the reach of children and pets.

· Never use candles on a tree, even an artificial tree.

· Burn candles in a sturdy holder and keep them away from children and pets.

· Unplug electric lights and blow out candles before leaving home or going to bed.

· Do not burn the tree or any wrapping paper in your fireplace.

· Keep space heaters at least three feet away from furniture, walls and drapes.

· Use only outdoor lights and extension cords outside your home and keep outdoor electrical connectors above ground and away from anywhere water may puddle.

· Have an operable fire extinguisher readily available.

· Check the batteries in your smoke detectors and make sure they are in working order.

If you plan to celebrate with fireworks, make sure you know what you are buying. In Florida, only sparklers are legal. Here's a good way to remember the difference: if it launches or explodes, it's illegal.

Some safety tips for sparklers include:

· Light them on a flat, hard surface. Do not light them on grass.

· Use them in an open area. Keep children and pets at least 30 feet from lit sparklers.

· Light only one item at a time.

· Never attempt to re-light a "dud."

· Do not use any items that are unwrapped or may have been tampered with.

· Have a fire extinguisher, hose or bucket of water handy for emergencies. Drop used sparklers in the bucket of water.

For a list of sparklers that have been tested and approved for use in Florida, or for more fire safety tips, visit and click on "State Fire Marshal."