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December 05, 2012

ITTLE ROCK - Decorating ahead of the holidays can be as enjoyable to many Arkansans as the holidays themselves. Yet, whether consumers are decking a hall or stringing lights across a rooftop, holiday decorating carries some safety risks.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, injuries related to holiday decorating have increased every year since 2009, with approximately 14,000 injuries last year. Many of those injuries are related to falls while hanging decorations or burns from open-flame candles.

Consumers typically use more candles this time of year, increasing the chance of candle-related fires. Fires caused by candles during the holidays resulted in $347 billion in property damage in the United States over a two-year period. Additionally, property losses from Christmas tree fires were $19 million over the same period.

To help Arkansas consumers decorate safely and without injury, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this Consumer Alert today.

"The holidays should be spent with family and friends, not in an emergency room because of an accident that could have been prevented using safety precautions," McDaniel said. "I encourage consumers to avoid hazards when decorating and take the time to stay safe."

McDaniel offered this advice for keeping the holidays injury-free:

Christmas Trees
• If purchasing a live tree, make sure it is fresh. A fresh tree will be green and have needles that are difficult to pull from the branches. The trunk end of the tree should be sticky with resin, and the tree should not lose needles if it is tapped on the ground.
• Keep live trees away from fireplaces, radiators and heaters, otherwise the tree may dry out.
• Make sure the tree stand is filled with water.
• If buying an artificial tree, make sure the tree is labeled as "fire resistant."
• Always check each set of lights, new or old, to make sure there are no broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard or repair, if necessary, before use.
• Only use lights that have been tested for safety by an independent testing laboratory and are labeled as such.
• Do not use more than three standard-size sets of lights per extension cord, and ensure that each extension cord is rated for the intended use.
• When using lights outdoors, make sure the lights are certified for outdoor use; fasten the lights securely to protect from wind damage; and only use insulated staples or hooks to hold the strands in place, not nails or tacks.
• Turn off holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house. The lights could short out and cause a fire.
• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
• Never use lighted candles on a tree.
• Keep decorations with small, removable parts out of the reach of children.
• In homes with small children, take care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, and those that resemble candy or food and might tempt a child to eat them.
• Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
Candles and fireplaces
• Never leave candles unattended. Put out candles before going to bed, leaving the room, or leaving the house.
• Keep candles on a stable surface where they cannot be knocked over.
• Keep candles away from items that can burn easily, like trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.
• Never throw giftwrap into a fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
• Do not burn evergreens in the fireplace. Greens burn like tinder when dry, and flames could flare out of control.
For more information on holiday safety or other consumer-related issues, visit or call the Consumer Protection Division's hotline at (800) 482-8982.