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The 4 most common causes of holiday house fires and how to prevent them

A Menlo Park fire department cadet extinguishes a Christmas tree fire during a holiday safety live fire demonstration on December 9, 2010 in Menlo Park, California. The Menlo Park fire department held their annual holiday safety live fire demonstration to promote fire safety during the holidays. Demonstrations using live fire showed how quickly fires can consume a home when a dry Christmas tree comes in contact with fire or candles are left unattended.
A Menlo Park fire department cadet extinguishes a Christmas tree fire during a holiday safety live fire demonstration on December 9, 2010 in Menlo Park, California. The Menlo Park fire department held their annual holiday safety live fire demonstration to promote fire safety during the holidays. Demonstrations using live fire showed how quickly fires can consume a home when a dry Christmas tree comes in contact with fire or candles are left unattended.
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Los Angeles Fire officials say they see an increase of household fires during the holiday season, and there are four main culprits. LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart tells us how to make sure you stay safe while you celebrate:.

  1. Candles 

    Armin Vogel/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)
    Candles cause an estimated 15,000 house fires nationally each year, Stewart says. "Many people use candles during their holiday celebrations. So we highly recommend that they are always extinguished when people go to sleep, and when you leave the home, never leave an unattended burning candle."
  2. Christmas tree-related fires 

    Corey Bridwell/KPCC
    Lights add a nice glow to your Christmas tree, but they can pose a great fire danger, especially if the strands have any frayed wires. "Frayed wires is a common cause of an electrical fire," says Stewart. "If it's at the Christmas tree, [it] will within seconds create a significant fire, which typically happens every Christmas. We’ll have structure fires related to trees within the city, and sometimes causing severe damage or fatalities." To avoid this, Stewart says to check every day that live trees have adequate water levels. She also recommends turning the lights off if you’re sleeping or leaving your home. And of course, check for any frayed wires before adorning your tree with them.  
  3. Cooking fires 

    Lauren Osen
    This is a year-round fire threat. But Stewart notes that people increase their cooking during the holidays, so it’s important to pay attention. "Things like leaving a pot on where a child may be able to reach it, or getting distracted, forgetting you have something on, and then you end up with a kitchen fire that could take over the home," Stewart says.   
  4. Space heaters 

    A utility-type DeLonghi space heater lies on display at a Lowe's home improvement store January 25, 2006 in Lincolnwood, Illinois.
    A utility-type DeLonghi space heater lies on display at a Lowe's home improvement store January 25, 2006 in Lincolnwood, Illinois.
    Tim Boyle/Getty Images
    This one flies under the radar, especially in L.A., according to Stewart. "Times like now where the weather drops, not everyone has central heating for their homes, and so they may use portable space heaters, which can be great, however they can also be very dangerous," she warns. Use space heaters that are consumer-approved for safety. Space heaters should not be plugged in to overloaded circuits, and should be kept away from children.