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Keep your holiday season from going up in flames

PLATTSBURGH - For many, the holiday season represents a time for family festivities and good cheer. What few consider is that the holiday season is a time when there is an increased risk of home fires. According to Clinton County Firefighters Association, many households engage in holiday activities that serve as some of the leading causes of U.S. home fires, including cooking. Christmas trees, candle usage and holiday decorations also significantly contribute to the seasonal causes of home fires. Add to that the hectic nature of the holidays, when people are trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time, and the chance for home fires grows even further.

"As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired," said Chuck Kostyk of CCFA. "That's when home fires are more likely to occur."

Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody.

"By taking some preventative steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented," said Kostyk.

With unattended cooking as the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, stay in the kitchen while you're frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it's for a short period of time. If you're simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you're cooking. The CCFA also suggests creating a "kid-free zone" of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

Candles are widely used in homes throughout the holidays, and December is the peak month for home candle fires. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association's statistics show more than half of all candle fires start because the candles had been too close to things that could catch fire. The CCFA encourages residents to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Use candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid using candles in the bedroom where two of five U.S. candle fires begin or other areas where people may fall asleep. Lastly, never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.

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