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Brainerd Fire Chief monthly column

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As Christmas is just days away, many families and businesses have decorated for the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. According to the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 250 home fires involving Christmas trees and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires resulted in 20 deaths and 45 injuries. An average, of 1,150 fires involving decorations other than trees has caused three deaths, 56 injuries and $24.8 million in direct loss. About one quarter of all decoration fires occur in December.

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Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles and the ever popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy. Learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in your home. Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees.

Natural trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. DO NOT put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent. Never leave a tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.

Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug. Do not burn tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

Inspect your holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bares spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them away. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

Avoid using lit candles. If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning. Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame, candles, lighters or matches.

Minnesota State Fire Code states that real trees are not allowed in certain areas, such as theaters, restaurants, auditoriums, church worship areas, schools, retail and wholesale stores and hotels.

If anyone has any questions about holiday decorations safety or any other fire safety tips call the fire station at 828-2312 or stop down.

I would like to personally wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

KEVIN STUNEK is the Fire Chief for the Brainerd Fire Department.

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