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Fire protection association offers Halloween safety tips

Glowing jack-o-lanterns, festive decorations, spooky costumes – Halloween offers lots of fun, but it comes with hidden fire dangers that can be truly scary.

Decorations featuring candles, and costumes with billowing or long, trailing fabric pose a fire risk, said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association. According to NFPA's most recent statistics, decorations are the first items ignited in the 920 reported home structure fires in an average year. Those fires lead to an average of six civilian deaths, 47 civilian injuries and nearly $13 million in property damage.

Nearly half of decoration fires in homes occur when the decorations are too close to a heat source. Of those fires, 41 percent were started by candles. One-fifth began in a living room, family room or den.

NFPA offers these tips to keep everyone safe on Halloween:

• When choosing a costume, stay away from billowing or trailing fabric. If you are making your own costume, choose fabric that won't easily ignite.

• If a costume includes a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough that the wearer can see clearly, particularly if the wearer is a child.

• Provide children with flashlights or glow sticks as part of their costume.

• Dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper are all highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations far away from open flames and heat sources, including heaters and light bulbs.

• Jack-o-lanterns are safest when lit with a glow stick or battery-operated candle. If you do use a real candle, use extreme caution and do not leave it unattended. Make sure children are supervised at all times when candles are lit. Light candles inside jack-o-lanterns using long fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter.

• Keep exits clear of all decorations so nothing blocks escape routes.

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