The winter months are a great time to enjoy family gatherings and holiday cheer, but decorations like Chanukah menorahs or Christmas trees can pose fire safety risks that are unique to this season. Families should share fire safety knowledge together to ensure that fire doesn’t become part of holiday memories.

The annual national fire loss for December according to the U.S. Fire Administration is $990 million. The December fires suffer a $300 per fire increase compared to other winter months. In December alone, holiday fires are responsible for over 1,600 injuries and 400 deaths. The Hartford Financial Services Group has the following fire-safety tips by Dennis Smith, a veteran firefighter who is also a National Ambassador for Hartford’s Junior Fire Marshal program. This will help to keep you and family safe this holiday season.

* Children attending holiday parties at the homes of their friends should be able to locate all exits and plan an emergency escape route. Children should be taught to avoid open flames and other heat sources that could pose a danger to their safety.

* Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, ensuring that nothing blocks escape routes.

* Be especially cautious when plugging Christmas tree lights and decorations into an electrical socket -; don’t overload power strips or surge protectors. Before everyone goes to sleep, make sure that holiday lights are turned off and unplugged.

* Candles play an important part in many holiday traditions, but children must be reminded that matches and candles are tools, not toys. Only adults should handle them.

* The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to check your smoke detector and see if the battery needs to be replaced. Make sure that the smoke detector is working in an area with a Christmas tree.

* Houses can become crowded at holiday time, with many children roaming unsupervised around the house. Make sure pot handles are not hanging above the stove’s edge to prevent children from getting burned.

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