Daily Light staff writer

The holidays are a time for family and friend gatherings, good soulful eating and beautiful displays of decorations ranging from Christmas lights, Christmas trees and beautifully decorated homes.

But there is also a little detail that shouldn’t be forgotten amidst all the celebrating — fire safety.

Last year, just between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, American Red Cross chapters in Dallas and Fort Worth responded to 129 house and apartment fires and helped 564 displaced people, according to a press release from the organization. Most of these fires could have been prevented had simple safety precautions been followed.

Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 1,300 people for injuries related to holiday lights and 6,200 people for injuries related to holiday decorations and Christmas trees.

In addition, Christmas trees are involved in about 400 fires annually, resulting in 40 deaths, 80 injuries and an average of more than $15 million in property loss and damage each year. For the American Red Cross, the average number of house fires — typically four per day — will double during the holiday season.

The city of Waxahachie has been fortunate in the recent years during the holiday season, Fire Marshal Dennis Crecelius said.

“Calls concerning home fires caused by Christmas lights and or trees are not as high as it used to be,” Crecelius said. “Years ago, we received a lot of those calls around Christmas time with fires caused by Christmas lights, but we haven’t had anything recently.”

Hoping to educate residents of the importance of fire safety during the holidays, Crecelius pointed out several safety tips concerning candles, live Christmas trees, the overloading of electrical outlets and other possible fire triggers.

“Around the Christmas holiday, fires can be caused by many things, but candles, lights and live trees are some of the major contributing factors,” Crecelius said.

“Candles need to be kept in a combustible holder that doesn’t tip over easily and they should not be placed near any decorations,” he said. “Electrical outlets should not be overloaded more than what it’s rated for. It’s best to get a strip outlet, which generally has a breaker switch that would turn itself off after so long.

“As far as live trees go, the tree should be placed in a bucket of water before bringing it in the home and that way the tree will soak up the water and remain moist and water should be kept in the bucket during the Christmas season,” Crecelius said. “The tree should be placed away from the stove, fireplace and any source of heat. Also, it should never be placed near an exit.”

According to the press release, the National Fire Protection Association notes that December is the leading month for home candle fires, with twice the average number of incidents.

NFPA offers these safety tips for the use of candles:

secure candles in a sturdy holder on a flat surface that won’t tip over make sure the holder is big enough to collect the dripping wax keep lit candles well away from Christmas trees and other decorations do not place candles in windows where blinds or curtains can close over them do not leave a burning candle unattended

The Red Cross also offers these safety tips while decorating the home for the holidays:

if using a live Christmas tree, keep it watered daily never put a lit candle on a Christmas tree make sure the Christmas tree is far away from any source of ignition such as a space heater or candle when putting holiday lights on the tree, follow the instructions recommended by UL Laboratories. Overloaded circuits are also the cause of many home fires during the holiday season

“My safety tip to families during the holiday season is to be very cautious with open flames like candles and fireplaces and to never overload your electrical circuits with Christmas lights or other decorations,” Crecelius said.

For more information, visit www.redcrossdfw.org.

E-mail Chicarra at chicarra.dense@waxhahachiedailylight.com