The trappings of the season may be beautiful -- but they can also be dangerous.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. offers these tips on avoiding fires resulting from holiday lighting, greenery and wrappings.
* Purchase lights that are Underwriters' Laboratory (U/L) approved and check annually for frayed or exposed wiring, broken bulbs or sockets, and loose connections.
Fasten strings securely to the tree and don't let the bulbs touch branches or needles.
* Don't use indoor lights outside.
Hang outdoor lights with insulated staples and Christmas light hooks -- not nails or tacks. Hanging bulbs downward will keep moisture out of sockets.
* Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
Damaged light strings can electrically charge the tree. Lights are safe on a U/L-approved plastic tree made of fire-resistant material.
* Don't overload extension cords or wall outlets.
Don't run electrical cords under carpets, cushions, or anywhere else they might be easily crushed or broken.
* Do not burn wrapping paper and boxes in the fireplace.
They ignite rapidly and can cause flash fires or create sparks that could ignite nearby combustibles.
* To be assured of freshness, cut your own tree.
Place any live tree in a sturdy, tip-proof stand away from high-traffic areas and heat sources.
* Keep the tree stand filled with lukewarm water and a little bit of sugar.
Check it daily.
* Keep a U/L-listed multipurpose fire extinguisher nearby, but attempt to use it only if you know how to operate it and the fire is small.
If a fire is out of control, evacuate the house immediately and call the fire department. A Christmas tree can be consumed by fire in less than 30 seconds.
* Unplug all lighting when you leave the house or at bedtime.
Grasp the plug -- don't pull out the cord.