PLATTSBURGH — It's that time of year again, when the Christmas lights go up, candles become more prominent — and home fires skyrocket.
That's why area firefighters are reminding everyone to be aware of holiday hazards.
"This time of year, people just don't realize how a bad set of Christmas lights can cause a fire," said Jeff Jacques, a Lake Placid firefighter and the local spokesperson for the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fires occurring throughout the holiday season claim 400 lives nationally, injure more than 1,600 people and cause more than $990 million in fire damage each year.
The state group and the Clinton County Firefighters Association have recommendations to help residents to have a safe holiday.
When purchasing decorations, make sure they are made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or noncombustible materials, and look for the UL mark on each.
UL is the Underwriters' Laboratories, where engineers test representative samples of products for safety hazards.
If you are pulling out old lights from last year, make sure the wires aren't frayed, bare or loose, and inspect them thoroughly before using them.
Avoid overcrowding power strips and extension cords.
One safety tip that many overlook, firefighters say, is checking packaging to determine the maximum number of strings that can be connected.
But other factors contribute to fires, such as how well residents take care of their Christmas trees.
Trees that have dried out over several weeks ignite much more easily, so be vigilant about keeping them watered.
Try to avoid placing the tree near radiators, space heaters, fireplaces and other heat sources, experts advise.
And always turn the electrical lights off before you leave the house or go to sleep.
Christmas trees have caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in property damage annually from 2005 to 2009, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.