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Careful with candles and cords

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of stories commemorating National Fire Prevention Week 2010. For more information on fire safety and prevention, visit www.nfpa.org.

They might seem innocent enough, but electrical cords and candles are potential fire dangers in a home.

This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Smoke alarms: A sound you can live with,” but to prevent those alarms from going off in the first place, it’s imperative to be aware of potential fire hazards such as candles and electrical cords.

Candles smell nice and bring a festive feel to a room, but forgetting to blow them out or not knowing how to properly place them can have devastating effects.

“They’re nice and have their decorative purposes, but they are an ignition source,” said Capt. James Dickens, Suffolk’s fire marshal. “Keep all combustible materials away from the flame, and don’t ever leave them unattended.”

Tall candles that can become unstable and fall over are particularly dangerous if left unattended.

All candles should always be kept on a sturdy surface and in a proper container. Makeshift holders, such as plastic cups or containers, should not be used.

Electrical cords combined with busy lives and makeshift solutions also can create fire hazards.

Any cords that are frayed or show signs of aging should be replaced immediately. Extension cords should only be used temporarily.

“Never use them for a permanent fix,” Dickens warns. “Running one under carpet is particularly dangerous. They can become frayed and then have combustible material right on top of it.”

Any attempt to alter electrical circuits and outlets, including overloading outlets, can also create a household fire.

“We’re in the fire prevention business,” Dickens said. “Some things around the house are obvious, but people get busy and don’t stop to think. They need to stop, pause and consider their own households.”