HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Lights, Christmas trees, wreaths and garland can dress up your home for the holidays. But when not used properly, decorations can create serious safety hazards or even cause fires.  

Henrico Fire chief Doug Reynolds says there is a safe way to go about decorating your home and getting in the holiday spirit. He says there are a few tips everyone should keep in mind.   

When it comes to decorating your home for the holidays this year, Chief Reynolds says it may be a new year, but you should start by checking your old decorations.   

“Check out those lights first of all,” Reynolds said. “If you get that string out, plug them in and see if they work. If half of them aren’t working, throw them away. Look for damaged wires, broken bulbs. That’s a good place to start.”

Safety measures can even apply to what type of tree you have.   

“As a general rule, these artificial trees are pretty safe,” Reynolds said. “If you decide to go with a real tree, be careful what you pick. So check those pine needles. If you end up with a handful, it may not be the freshest tree. If all the needles are falling off, don’t choose that one.”

What about when it comes to lighting up your Christmas décor? Reynolds says those extension cords that you use to brighten up your decorations can also be dangerous if you don’t use them correctly. One dangerous technique he often sees is called “daisy chaining.” That’s when someone attaches multiple low quality extension cords to one another, leaving a mixed voltage trail of cords that can be really risky and even a possible fire hazard.  

“You have these inexpensive cords and you’ve added three of them together and they just cannot take the heat that a thicker cord would be able to take,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds says the golden rule for safety this holiday season are to unplug or blow out fire hazards before you leave, and have fire protection in place.  

“When you get ready to go to bed or when you leave that house, blow out the candles and unplug those things, and that’s going to make it a lot better for you,” Reynolds said. “Without a doubt the gold standard is have a working fire detector in your home.”

Chief Reynolds says one good tip to keep in mind this holiday season is that if you call the non-emergency number to any of the Richmond fire departments, they will give you a smoke detector and install it for you ahead of the holiday season.