Holiday decorations can pose a potential fire hazard

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - While it's a fun time of year to decorate, it's also a time of increased fire hazards.

The Rapid City Fire Department says there is usually a peak in structure fires during the winter months. While that's mostly caused by cooking gone wrong, it can also be caused by decorations.

A study found that between 2012 and 2016, there were 800 home fires each year during that time period caused by holiday decorations.

"People are overloading circuits, using a lot of extension cords, or wiring that is in poor repair," said Jim Bussell, public information officer with the Rapid City Fire Department.

Bussell recommends using LED lights because they don't burn as hot and using a multiple strip outlet.

Another hazard to keep an eye out for? Candles.

The National Fire Protection Association finds that more than one third of home fires are started by candles, with December being the most likely time of year for this kind of fire to happen.

"Big thing to remember is to keep any candles away from combustible material at least a foot and a big mistake is people go to bed and forget it's burning, so make sure to blow it out," says Bussell.

But he says don't limit that to just candles. Bussell told KOTA that over 40 percent of fires nationwide involving Christmas decorations are a result of them being placed too close to a heat source.

FEMA also reports that a heat source too close to a Christmas tree causes one in every four winter fires. They recommend keeping your tree at least three feet away from a heat source.

"It's a great time of year, a fun time of year and it's a lot of fun decorating, but please be careful when doing so," warns Bussell.

Here are some other tips from FEMA:

- Inspect holiday lights each year before you put them up. Throw away
light strands with frayed or pinched wires.

- Water your Christmas tree every day. A dry tree is dangerous because it can catch on fire easily.

- Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look,
smell and feel like real candles.

- If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be knocked down easily.

- Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

- Do not block exits with trees or decorations.

- Check the packaging; some lights are only for indoor use.