December and January are known for cold temperatures and holiday celebrations with family and friends.

But Barrow County Emergency Services (BCES) officials say those months also see an increase in house fires and medical emergencies.

“This time of the year is a ‘perfect storm’ of contributing factors to house fires…Christmas trees, candles, fireplaces, lots of cooking and baking…all of these are things everyone looks forward to, but we urge citizens to be cautious as we enter the holiday season,” said Capt. Scott Dakin, public information officer for BCES. “Simple steps can be taken to help reduce the chances of accidental fires and injuries.”

BCES has released the following holiday safety tips:

•Be mindful that freshly cut Christmas trees need to be continually watered. Residents should check trees daily to make sure that the trees do not dry out. Christmas trees are responsible for approximately 30 house fires annually nationwide (source: National Fire Protection Agency)

•Use care with candles. Candles should not be left unattended and should never be placed in close proximity to trees, décor, curtains or other flammable items.

•Check the condition of all wiring on decorative lights and extension cords for loose connections and cracked or frayed wiring.

•Pay careful attention to items cooking on stoves and in ovens, and be sure fires in grills are completely out before disposing of ashes and coals. Embers from a charcoal grill can still be hot enough to start a fire for many hours after grilling.

•Use caution when handling fireworks and sparklers. Children should not use these devices without adult supervision.

•Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by allowing plenty of ventilation for heating devices that use any type of burning fuel source. Annually inspect chimneys and fireplaces and clean as needed.

•Only qualified professionals should install and repair stationary heating devices like woodstoves and natural gas heaters.

•Keep flammable materials away from all heating devices. A common cause of house fires are bed sheets, curtains and furniture that come in contact with portable space heaters. Care should also be used with heat lamps that are used outdoors to warm pets and livestock.

“BCES wishes everyone a happy and SAFE holiday season,” Chief Alan Shuman said. “We hope that citizens will use these basic safety tips to help reduce the number of fires and burns that we typically see this time of year.”

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