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How can I prevent a fire during the holidays?

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Twinkling lights, a crackling fireplace, home-cooked meals with your favorite family and friends Ė thereís a lot to love about Thanksgiving and the holiday season. There are also precautions to take and necessary maintenance needed to keep you and your home safe, whether youíre playing host or spending some time away.

Careful cooking

The kitchen is the heart of the house. Itís also where home fires are most likely to start, according to the American Red Cross. There are a few ways you can reduce the risk: Unplug appliances when you arenít using them and donít ever put metal in the microwave. Exercise caution when using a deep fryer, and keep a fire extinguisher on hand at all times in case of an emergency. Finally, keep your appliances clean, and donít hesitate to call in an extra pair of hands if you need assistance getting everything in tip-top shape. Homeowners pay an average of $170 to hire a maid service.

Prioritize decor safety

Peppermint, cinnamon, fresh pine needles Ė candles brighten up a room in sight and smell, but make sure to place them on a sturdy surface and put them out before bed. Also be aware of the lights youíre hanging: Are they indoor-only? Have they been tested by a regulatory agency? Avoid the risk of fire or electrical shock by inspecting your lights and only using them as directed. If you donít feel safe climbing a ladder to hang them outside, or if you arenít sure about the type of lights you need, a professional can help. Homeowners paying about $405 for professional holiday light installation.

Sweep the chimney

Nothing adds ambiance to a room quite like a roaring fire. But before you gather round the hearth, consider an inspection from a professional chimney sweep, especially if itís been a few years. Unclean chimneys are a major cause of house fires, says the National Fire Protection Agency, so itís best not to brush off the job Ė or to try and do it yourself Ė unless youíre very familiar with the process. Homeowners pay an average of $245 for a chimney sweep.

Clean dryer vents

Is it taking longer for your clothes to dry in every cycle? Does your laundry room seem suddenly, excessively hot? These are symptoms of a clogged dryer vent, which is a serious fire hazard. Familiarize yourself with the other signs of build-up and call in a professional to inspect your vents. The average national cost of this service is $130, which is well worth the peace of mind and preservation of property the clean-up provides.

Update fire alarms

Youíre likely familiar with the sound your fire alarm makes when the battery is dying: The high-pitched chirping can reverberate throughout your house. But take note: The U.S. Fire Administration advises homeowners that the type of smoke detector you have determines how often you need to replace the batteries, and fire alarms themselves have a shelf life. Test your fire alarms often and replace the batteries at least once a year. If you have high ceilings, or if your smoke alarms are in hard-to-reach places, a handyman can help. Homeowners report paying an average of $80 per hour to have smoke detectors installed.

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