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Light up the neighborhood with your cool Christmas lights, not an electrical fire

Christmas lights display in front yard

Fire officials recommend checking your extension cords before use and discarding any if the insulation is cracked, worn, or damaged.

If you want your holiday season to be lit — but not lit on fire — Massachusetts fire officials are reminding you to avoid getting too jolly with extension cords.

This reminder to exercise caution with your holiday decorations comes after a small fire began in a plastic “igloo” used for outdoor dining outside a Westford restaurant. According to a press release from the state’s Department of Fire Services, fire investigators say the fire started with Christmas lights that had been plugged into a series of two extension cords, including one with exposed wires that had been wrapped with duct tape. One extension cord ran under a door to the restaurant, where it was subject to friction from the opening and closing door.

“No one was injured, but the same circumstances could have led to tragedy if they occurred indoors or when people were sleeping,” said Westford Fire Chief Joseph Targ and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey in a statement.

“Extension cords can be convenient, but they should always be used safely,” said Targ. “Check your extension cord before use and discard it if the insulation is cracked, worn, or damaged. Replacing the cord is much less expensive than replacing all the items that can burn in a fire.”

“Plugging one extension cord into another can overload and overheat it, creating a fire hazard, so use a longer cord instead,” said Ostroskey in the statement. “If you’re using an extension cord outdoors, be sure it’s listed by a qualified testing organization like UL and marked for outdoor use. And be sure to use a cord that’s rated for the wattage of whatever you’re powering. Appliances like space heaters should be plugged directly into a wall socket that can handle the current, not an extension cord.”

Remember, an electrical fire — or any type of fire — in or near a Christmas tree can grow to engulf a room in seconds, fire officials said. Use caution with lights, cords and heating appliances, and be sure there are working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on all floors of the residence. Water your tree regularly to reduce the hazard further.

For more electrical safety information, including Spanish-language resources, visit the Department of Fire Services website.

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