Celebrating safely: Avoiding dangerous mistakes when decorating for the holidays

OKLAHOMA CITY - The end result is beautiful, but setting up lights for the holidays can be dangerous and lead to fires if not done correctly.

"It's just the care [you take]," said Brian Goines, Oklahoma City operations manager for Mister Sparky. "Doing it right is what it's about."

In the living room of an Edmond home, Goines' eye is first drawn to the tree. Real trees pose one of the most significant hazards in the home, he said, particularly when people forget to water it.

"With a live tree if you have any brown bristles or anything, it's not where it needs to be, so then you make sure you add more water to it," he said. "If there's any bristles on the ground or on the floor, make sure you sweep those up or get them vacuumed up."

In addition to watering, the Oklahoma City Fire Department suggests keeping a live tree away from the exits and at least three feet from candles or space heaters.

Here's moreĀ advice from Mister Sparky:

  • Pay attention to whether extension cords or lights are rated for indoor or outdoor use -- mixing them up could be risky
  • Be careful about leaving your indoor lights on overnight
  • Replace extension cords every 2-3 years, checking for nicks or cuts to the cord
  • Monitor items close to the fireplace to ensure they aren't heating up to dangerous temperatures
  • Use plastic clips to hold lights outdoors instead of metal staples, which could puncture the wire and cause it to fray
  • If climbing on the roof, use a ladder that reaches three feet above the top of the roof
  • Use bubble covers on outdoor outlets to protect cords and plugins from the weather

"Cost-effectiveness is not always the best," Goines said. "When it comes to your safety, as a professional electrician, and your home, your family, cost is not something to consider. Safety is."

The Oklahoma City Fire Department says the holiday season can be one of the busiest for firefighters, as families get together to celebrate.

"Everyone wants to cook and spend time with each other and you're getting the house ready, you're turning on the heaters for the first time," said OKCFD Corp. Colin Plain. "I would say most of the fires we respond on are either food left on the stove, somebody walking out of the room unattended and forgetting about it or things in the oven."

Lately, the OKCFD has responded to fires caused by space heaters, which people often misuse, Plain said.

"People want to put their towels on them, put their blankets on them to stay warm, it's like keeping combustibles close to a fireplace, you never know when it's going to kick off," he said.

To prevent fires, OKCFD recommends cleaning the fireplace at least once a year and making sure theĀ vent to the chimney is open so smoke can escape.

The department will provide and install smoke detectors for free to anyone who asks their local firefighters.