Like a bow topping a gift box, the holidays wrap the year in equal parts excitement and exhaustion thanks to the crazy-busy time.

The fun-filled season can also be a hazardous time for you, your family and your home. For example, the threat of fire is probably never greater, coming from Christmas trees, cooking and overloaded electrical outlets. Here’s how you can reduce your holiday fire risk:

Water that tree

Talk about ruining your holiday—and possibly much more: More than 200 home fires each year start with a Christmas tree, according to the National Fire Protection Association. So unplug all tree lights before you leave home, and keep the tree adequately watered. (If a gentle tug on a branch yields a handful of needles, the tree is too dry.)

Need visual proof of what can happen? Watch this video showing the dramatic difference between a holiday fire starting in a dry Christmas tree vs. a properly watered one:

What you can do to help prevent a fire in your clothes dryer.

Get the Tips

Pay attention to home appliances

It’s hard to imagine life without the convenience of home appliances, but if that machine isn’t working right—especially if it’s making strange sounds—it could pose a risk for fire, so don’t use it. Unplug it and either have it repaired by a professional or buy a new one.

Taking the heat

Space heaters are small, efficient and effective. They’re also potentially deadly, causing an estimated 25,000 residential fires each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Always keep a generous radius around them (at least 3 feet) that’s clear of clothes, furniture, bedding and all other flammable materials.

Here are more portable heater safety tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

Stirring up trouble in the kitchen

Never leave a hot stove unattended, and avoid setting recipes, hand towels and other flammable items on or near the stovetop—ceramic flattop stoves can look deceptively friendly even when hot from recent use. If a grease fire ignites, never reach for water, tempting as it may be; instead, keep handy a charged extinguisher rated for class K fires, which include those started by oils and fat.

Here are a few ways to prevent a holiday fire in the kitchen:

  • If you walk away from what you’re cooking, temporarily turn off all burners.
  • Turn pan handles toward the back of the stove to prevent bumping into them.
  • See smoke or boiling grease? Turn the burners off.
  • Be prepared with a pan lid or baking sheet at all times—either will help put out the fire.

Wire rhymes with holiday fire

Overloaded outlets can pose a big fire risk. Also, check plugs, cords and wall sockets for signs of damage or excess wear, such as fraying or smoke-stained outlets, and stop using them if they don’t pass muster. And never use indoor-only holiday lights, extension cords or plugs outside in the elements. That’s asking for trouble.

A little something extra

Celebrating the holidays out of town? Leave town without worry with the help of these holiday safety tips:

  • Don’t leave home without setting the heat at a proper temperature.
  • Water can cause problems, too. If you’ll be away for weeks at a time, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and drain all lines to prevent random leaks and to keep pipes from freezing and bursting in colder climates.
  • For even more security, have a friend or neighbor check on your residence to catch any unforeseen issue while you are away.

Talk to a Trusted Advisor

Get information about protecting your home any time of year.

Coverage is subject to all policy terms, conditions, exclusions and limitations. Discounts and savings opportunities subject to eligibility requirements. Subject to underwriting requirements. Insurance underwritten by one of the following companies: Auto Club Insurance Association, MemberSelect Insurance Company, Auto Club Group Insurance Company, Auto Club Property-Casualty Insurance Company, Auto Club South Insurance Company, Auto Club Insurance Company of Florida or non-affiliated insurance companies.

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