The Athens Fire Department is encouraging citizens to make this Christmas season a safe one.

“Just be safe, that’s the main thing,” Athens Fire Battalion Chief/Fire Marshal Ronnie Denton said.

The Home Safety Council recommends taking the following precautions while decorating:

• Inspect holiday lights and extension cords before decorating. Replace any that are fraying or damaged. Pay special attention to lights, cords or decorations that may have been damaged from winter weather conditions.

• Check for red or green UL marks on all light strings and extension cords. The green holographic UL Mark means the light strings should be used only indoors. The red holographic UL Mark indicates the light strings can be used both inside and out — and can withstand conditions related to outdoor use.

• Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for stringing light sets together. As a general rule, UL recommends using no more than three standard-size sets of lights together.

• Hang or mount light strands carefully to avoid damaging the cord’s insulation.

• Do not overload extension cords or electrical receptacles.

• Unplug all holiday lights when you go to sleep or leave home.

• Plug outdoor decorations into outlets protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) to prevent shock.

• Automatic lighting timers can be used to ensure that lights are not left on. These are available for both indoor and outdoor use.

• Roll up excess electrical cords and keep them away from high traffic areas. Do not run electrical cords under rugs.

• Never keep an extension cord plugged in when it is not in use.

• When replacing a light bulb, be sure to use the correct bulb size (wattage) that is right for the fixture.

• Use safety caps to keep children from putting items into electrical receptacles outlets.

“With a real live Christmas tree in the house, there is more maintenance,” Denton said.

• When purchasing live, cut trees or greens, carefully inspect the needles. If they’re brown or break easily, the greenery isn’t fresh and poses a greater fire risk. Test for freshness by bending a few needles in half. If they snap in two, the tree is dry — look for one on which the needles spring back to their original shape.

• When you take your tree home, put it in a sturdy, non-tip stand filled with water.

• Keep live trees supplied with water at all times; dehydrated Christmas trees can catch fire more easily.

• Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any flame or heat source

• Never decorate trees with candles.

• Try to position it near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.

• Inspect electrical lights and extension cords for wear and tear and replace any cords that are beginning to fray or have broken sockets; pay special attention to outdoor lights that have been exposed to winter weather conditions. To reduce fire hazards and extend the life of outdoor decorative lights, bring them inside after the holidays.

• Avoid cluttering outlets — string no more than three strands of lights together and make sure all lights bear the mark of an independent organization such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

• When decorating indoors, use only those lights listed for indoor use. Unplug all lights — inside and out — before going to bed or leaving home.

• Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are flammable and should not be left inside the home or garage, or placed against the house.

• Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. Don’t forget to install, test and maintain these devices in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

• Develop and practice a fire escape plan for your household so overnight guests are familiar with your procedures.

Denton said people should be careful how they dispose of trash after opening gifts.

“Don’t put your wrapping paper in the fireplace,” he said.

Denton said large pieces can clog up the screen and cause problems with the exhaust of the fireplace.

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