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Don't let the excitement of the holidays set your house on fire

Most people in Texas look forward to the winter holidays for months, anticipating the celebrations and exciting times with family and friends. However, you might not be aware of the unique fire hazards that the holiday festivities present. The U.S. Fire Administration says a significant number of house fires occur during the winter months.

Regardless of what holiday you and your loved ones celebrate, a house fire would likely be the worst thing that can happen. However, you can take precautions to prevent a house fire and ensure happy holidays for you and your guests.

Outdoor lights

Decorative displays of outdoor lights can show everybody your holiday spirit, but take the following safety precautions:

  • Use a sturdy ladder made of fiberglass or wood, which will not conduct electricity.
  • Make sure the extension cords and electrical decorations are safe for outdoor use.
  • Avoid running any electrical cables where windows or doors can pinch them and damage the insulation.
  • Keep the decorative lights and the cords away from standing water or snow.

It might be smart to follow the recommendations of the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

Indoor decorations

If you plan to decorate a real tree, keep in mind that it will become dry and brittle. Along with the following safety steps, keep watering the tree every day to reduce the risk of a fire.

  • Test all the electrical cords and lights before you start decorating indoors to identify faults or defects. Remove or replace damaged objects.
  • Make sure that there are at least three feet between any heat source and seasonal plants or the Christmas tree.
  • Use clips instead of nails to hang the lights indoors to prevent damaged cords.
  • Do not use decorations indoors that are specifically for outdoor use only.
  • Do not leave the lights on when you go to sleep or leave your home.
  • Never use real burning candles as tree decorations.
  • If you do burn candles inside the house, keep children away from them. Also, extinguish them when you go to sleep.

Once you remove the tree after the holidays, dispose of it as soon as possible. A dry, brittle and highly combustible Christmas tree lying outside is a fire hazard.

Cooking safety

Safety authorities say almost 50 percent of house fires are cooking-related, and the number of such fires increases every year. Here are some suggestions to ensure you cook with care:

  • Holiday preparations can be chaotic, making it easy to neglect caution.
  • Do not leave the kitchen while anything is cooking in the oven or on the stove.
  • Safety authorities suggest keeping lids handy to put on a pot or pan that catches fire to cover the flames, then removing the pan from the heat to prevent the fire from spreading.
  • Turn off all the burners and remove pans from the stovetop after finishing preparations -- remember that the stove will remain hot for some time.

Keep in mind that the risk of fire increases when too many cooks crowd the kitchen.

Open flames and fire

With the coziness of gathering around an open outdoor fire or a fireplace indoors come the risks of a house fire. Take the following precautions to avoid tragedy:

  • Do not light outdoor fires closer than about 10 feet to any structure, and avoid lighting it in windy conditions.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children.
  • Burn only dry wood in a fireplace, and inspect the chimney before using an indoor fireplace.

Even though hanging Christmas stockings above the fireplace might be a tradition, it could be the cause of a house fire.

If you or a loved one suffers injuries from fires caused by defective decorations, or the negligence of a homeowner where you were guests, you might be able to recover damages through the civil justice system of Texas. An experienced personal injury attorney can determine whether you have grounds to file a lawsuit, and then assist with the navigation of such a claim in pursuit of financial relief to cover medical and other expenses.

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