Hoosier Fire Marshal: Holiday decorations can burn down your house

(Jon Zimney/95.3 MNC)

While putting up decorations this holiday season, the Indiana State Fire Marshal, part of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, encourages Hoosiers to keep fire safety in mind. A large portion of home fires during the holiday season are a result of holiday lights and unattended candles.

Holiday lights and decorations should be carefully examined each year before they are hung outside or on a tree. Common fire hazards that Hoosiers should look for on holiday lights are frayed or broken strands and missing bulbs.

If possible, older styles of lights should be replaced with newer, cool-to-touch lights that are less likely to ignite nearby materials. There should never be more than three strands of lights attached together and circuit breakers should not be overloaded. Always verify that lights are rated for the location they’ll be used, such as outdoor lights being used outside.

When leaving the house or going to bed, lights should be turned off and all candles should be extinguished. Candles should never be placed in an unattended holiday display, on a Christmas tree of any kind or below any other ignitable holiday decorations. If candles must burn completely as part of a holiday celebration, make sure they are attended to at all times.

Decorating Safely

Each year, thousands of people make trips to the emergency room from falls due to unsafe ladder use while hanging holiday lights or decorations. Here are a few ladder-related tips to keep in mind this holiday season:

·         Stay clear of power or feeder lines when hanging lights outdoors

·         Always have a buddy system when up on a ladder or roof

·         Make sure the ladder is on a secure and level footing before climbing

·         Space the base of the ladder one foot away from the wall for every four feet it reaches up

·         Never stand on the top two rungs of an extension ladder or on the very top of a step ladder

·         Carry a cell phone at all times in the event of an accident

When decorating outside during cold weather, Hoosiers should try to limit the amount of time they are outside at once. Exposure to cold temperatures for an extended amount of time puts extra strain on the heart and can increase the risk of frostbite. Adults and children should wear the following while decorating outside:

·         A hat

·         A scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth

·         Sleeves that are snug at the wrist

·         Insulated and waterproof mittens or gloves

·         Several layers of loose-fitting, thermal wear or material that wicks moisture off the skin

·         A water-resistant or tightly woven coat

·         Two layers of socks with boots or shoes that are waterproof and have a flexible sole

For more information on holiday decorating safety, visit

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