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Fire prevention is a holiday must

SCHUYLER COUNTY-Holiday decorations can be pretty, but also dangerous this time of year.
To remind people of the potential fire hazards that arise during this season, the Schuyler County Firefighter's Association is teaming up with the fire departments in Schuyler County, Schuyler County Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Schuyler County Emergency Management for the fifth annual "Keep the Wreath Blue" campaign.
All participating agencies will display a wreath in front of their stations, decorated with blue lights.  Whenever there is a structural fire in the county from Thanksgiving until Jan. 1, one of the blue lights will be replaced with a red one. A small fire in Odessa Saturday night was the first red bulb of this year.
Last year there were a total seven red light bulbs representing structural fires. Six were homes and one was a workshop. Only one property was completely lost in the fires, but no one was injured.
This year is the first year schools will also be tracking the fires. Odessa-Montour, Watkins Glen and Bradford all have their own wreaths. Emergency Management coordinator Bill Kennedy said this expansion was just another way they were trying to spread the word about preventing fires during the holidays.
There are many ways this holiday season to make sure your house does not become one of the red lights on the wreath.  The U.S. Fire Administration (USAF) says that a "wet tree is a safe tree."  Keep the tree's stand full of water (see related story).
The USAF also tells people to inspect their holiday lights each yea for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.  Do not link more than three strands together, unless indicated it is safe.  Before plugging an extension cord into the outlet, make sure all the lights are already attached to the cord.  People should also check wires periodically to make sure none are warm to the touch.  Most importantly is that people should not leave holiday lights unattended.
When decorating, the USAF suggests using nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations.  This also goes for artificial trees.  Never put wrapping paper on a fireplace, because it could cause a large fire.
Lastly, avoid using lit candles.  However, for those people who will have them, make sure they are in stable holders and placed where they cannot be knocked over.  Lever leave the house with them still burning and never put lit candles on a Christmas tree.
For more information on fire safety contact your local fire department or Schuyler County Emergency Management ay 607-535-8200.

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