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Deck the halls smartly, safely

Prevent Christmas tree fires and save energy, too

WHEN RALPHIE PARKER’S DAD attempts to plug his glorious but tragically fra-gee-lay “Italian” leg lamp into an overloaded wall outlet in the holiday movie classic A Christmas Story, there first came a “snap of a few sparks” and the “whiff of ozone” before the lamp blazed forth in the front window. 

While that’s a funny movie scene, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives want to remind folks that overloaded circuits and sparks are never funny, especially this time of year. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, one of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. And though not common, Christmas tree fires are more serious than typical home fires. One of every 31 reported Christmas tree fires results in a death. On average, just one in 144 typical home fires do. 

For fresh or artificial Christmas trees, eliminate heat by using LED lights. Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs or tiny lights, LEDs do not get hot and they use 75% to 90% less electricity for the same amount of light. They also come in an endless range of sizes, colors and multiple lighting patterns. 

When decorating, follow these holiday tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: 

  • Keep potentially poisonous plants—mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis— away from children. 
  • If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire resistant.” 
  • If using a live tree, cut off about 2 inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption. 
  • Place your tree at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. 
  • Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways. Use thin guy-wires to secure a large tree to walls or ceiling. These wires are almost invisible. 
  • Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children can reach them. 
  • Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses. 
  • Use only indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors, and choose the right ladder for the task when hanging lights. 
  • Replace light sets that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. 
  • Follow package directions on the number of light sets that can be plugged into one socket. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. 
  • Never nail, tack or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow. 
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls or other firm support to protect from wind damage. 
  • Turn off all lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. 

Obviously, Ralphie made it to adulthood to look back warmly on that Christmas when he got a BB gun in A Christmas Story. May your holidays be bright and safe.

CHRIS MURPHY is the General Superintendent at Licking Valley RECC.

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