7 On Your Side: Tips to avoid holiday fire hazards in your home

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Nina Pineda has 7 On Your Side.

The holidays are a time of cheer, but also a time to watch out for added dangers in your home. Just two weeks ago, a couple in Brooklyn was killed in a fire caused by a faulty power strip. So what do you need to watch out for?

With all the entertaining and the decorating madness, it's easy to forget about safety. But the fact is that every year, firefighters across the country respond to 230 Christmas tree fires.

You have to keep your tree watered and away heat sources, and use products that are safe.

Something as simple as a bad bulb or a branch near a candle, a faulty power cord or a short-circuiting decoration, could create an inferno in your living room in just seconds.

"A dry tree burns so fast," electrical engineer John Drengenberg said. "You have only a few seconds to get out of your house."

Drengenberg, of Underwriters Laboratory, knows firsthand how easily fires can start. His job is to test products seeking the UL stamp of approval.

"There's certain requirement a manufacture has to pass in order to carry the UL mark," he said.

Tip 1: The UL label is always on the product itself, or for holiday decorations, on a hologram tag. If it's on the packaging only, it's counterfeit.

"It could've come from anywhere," he said. "It might not have the right amount of sockets."

Tip 2: Test the cord before buying. We compared two cords side by side.

"This one is loose like a spaghetti noodle," Drengenberg said. "This one is much stiffer. It could overheat. It could start a fire. It could cause a shock hazard for a child."

Next is what not to do, even with a good cord.

Tip 3: Don't run cords under carpets, even though it may look better.

"If the cord starts getting damaged, it gets hotter and hotter," Drengenberg said. "And the carpet holds the heat in, and it becomes the fuel for the fire."

Tip 4: Don't run extension cords outside through windows and doors, where they can get crimped or damaged and possibly spark a fire.

"It's never a great idea to run a cord through a window or door," Drengenberg said. "And beside, this is an indoor cord, not an outdoor cord."

Tip 5: Don't use indoor cords or decorations outside, because only outdoor products have been tested for weather. Be careful where you place your plugs, and move splitters to stay dry.

Tip 6: Many people like to grill year round, but don't move your grill close to the house or under a covered porch, where flare-ups can lead to flames.

Tip 7: Be very careful with anything that generates deadly carbon monoxide fumes, and NEVER use a generator in the garage or the house.

Lastly, make sure you don't overload power strips. Any appliance that draws heat -- toaster ovens, microwaves, space heaters -- all need to be plugged into their own separate power sources.

"It's just like turning your car without opening the door the carbon monoxide can kill you very easily," said Drengenberg.
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