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Home safety lets everyone enjoy holidays more

Much of the fun of the holiday season comes from colorful flashing lights - as long as they are not connected to a fire engine or police cruiser.

"The joy of lighting up your Christmas tree in your home brings smiles to many faces, however, the dangers of having a live Christmas tree can also pose a threat to the safety of your home," Chino Valley Fire District Public Information Officer Rob Zazueta said.

Zazueta advises that if you have a live tree in your home, keep plenty of water in the water basin and ensure that you are keeping all open flame away from the tree.

If you use an artificial tree, the National Safety Council recommends choosing a tree that is tested and labeled as "fire resistant." Artificial trees with built-in lights and electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.

"The other precaution for your Christmas tree would be to make sure that your electrical cords are staying within manufacturers' recommendations," Zazueta said. "Overloading outlets is a severe fire hazard."

Zazueta also recommends keeping a fire extinguisher accessible at all times.

Before hanging your stocking with care on the mantle, Zazueta suggests having a professional clean and check your fireplace.

"No matter whether you have a wood-burning or gas-burning unit, regular cleaning is essential if it is to be effective and safe," Zazueta said. "Professionals often recommend getting your fireplace cleaned once a year."

And don't forget to mind your ashes.

Ashes from your fireplace will build up fast as the weather gets colder and the use of your fireplace continues, according to Zazueta. When cleaning out ashes, be sure to place them in a metal bucket and never store ashes near your home. Ashes can remain hot for several days and can ignite a fire if not secured.

Portable heaters should always be left on a level, hard ground surface to avoid the heater from tipping over and igniting a fire, Zazueta advises. Never leave a portable heater on when you are not in the room or in the home.

Keep heaters clear of objects that may be ignitable such as furniture, trees and holiday decor.

"The use of heaters indoors can also pose a carbon monoxide threat, so be sure that ventilation is sufficient and that your home is equipped with a carbon monoxide detector," Zazueta said.

Fire isn't the only thing residents need to keep an eye out for during the holidays. Thieves are counting on your carelessness to score big this holiday season.

"The opportunity is much greater during these seasons because of the fact many people travel and leave houses unattended for longer periods of time," Sgt. Brandon Bonney from the Prescott Valley Police Departments said.

Bonney advises residents leaving the area for the holidays to consider using timers for lights and radios to give the illusion that someone may be home when you are away.

Make sure a trusted neighbor knows you may be out of town for the holidays so they can watch your house, Bonney said.

Piles of newspapers outside and an overflowing mailbox are key signals for thieves. If you don't have a trusted friend or neighbor to collect your mail and newspapers, call the post office and newspaper circulation department to place a hold on delivery until you return.

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