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Don't get 'fired up' this season

An old country tune carries the title "Home is Where the Hurt Is." This time of year, when home-accident rates rise and people tend to mix and match candles and conifers, people should go the extra mile to keep that "hurt" from hitting home.

The burning of candles and Yule logs is a wonderful tradition that has been passed down for centuries. The important thing is to make sure that the warm memories of such things never take on the trappings of a family tragedy. For such reasons, the Naval Safety Center — always concerned with fires — has set down some "Yule rules" to keep the holiday dreams of Americans from going up in smoke.

First, decorate only with flame-retardant or non-combustible materials. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled fire-retardant. Don't mix metallic trees and electricity at any time. If you buy a fresh tree, make sure it is fresh by testing the needles. They should be difficult to pull from the branches. The tree should also have a sticky stump.

If you hang stockings from the hearth, don't light a fire in the fireplace while they're there.

Second, keep candles away from windows and entrances where people can knock them over. Snuff them out during parties and make sure they aren't close to decorations. When putting up lights, don't use more than three sets on one extension cord.

If you allow guests to smoke in your home, make sure the ashtrays are large and deep. Check the ashtrays frequently and check the trash cans for smoldering cigarette butts.

If you have a Christmas tree, do not burn it or burn any Christmas gift wrap in the fireplace after the holidays. Some Christmas wrapping ignites very quickly and has been known to create "flash fires."

Make sure you have smoke alarms that are functioning and keep a fire extinguisher close at hand.

Flames have always had a special meaning at Christmas. They not only represent the "return of the light," but for many of the faithful they signal the advent of the spirit. In many homes, Christmas without candles would be like Christmas without Santa Claus.

The important thing is to make sure those candle flames are under control. The worst thing that can happen for the holidays is to have someone you love get singed in the celebration.