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(RNS) Secular and religious groups are urging Christians and Jews to take safety precautions during Christmas and Hanukkah, when candles, electric lights and flammable decorations create fire hazards.
Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that begins at sunset on Dec. 11, has traditions that involve lighting up to eight candles and frying foods in oil — potential hazards that have prompted Judaism’s Orthodox Union to designate December as Fire Safety Month.
Jews should keep lit candles out of reach of small children and at least four feet away from curtains, draperies, blinds, cabinets and bedding. Although traditionally lit around sunset, Jewish law permits the menorah to be lit later if necessary, according to Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who advises the Orthodox Union on issues of Jewish law.
“If one is not going to be home while the Hanukkah candles are lit, it is better that they not be lit, but one can light later in the evening if they will be home,” he said in a statement. “There should always be someone watching or near the candles.”
Live Christmas trees should be freshly cut, kept watered at all times and displayed far from a heat source, according to the U.S. Fire Administration’s seasonal warning. Holiday lights should be inspected for frayed wires, gaps or any other problems; electric outlets should not be overloaded, and wires should never feel warm to the touch.
Every home should have at least one working fire extinguisher, and families should have an emergency evacuation plan, officials said. The fire administration also warns against disposing of gift wrap in a fireplace.
By Nicole Neroulias
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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