FIRE chiefs have issued an early warning over the safe use of Christmas lights.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (H&WFRS) has said people need to be careful with festive lighting for both indoor and outdoor use.

Pete Hope, community safety adviser with H&WFRS, explained: “We know that many people will be turning their thoughts to Christmas as the first day of December draws near and we want to make sure that safety is high on their agenda as they unpack their lights and decorations from last year or plan to buy some new ones.

“In recent years we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of people using lights to decorate the outside of their homes and gardens for Christmas and we want to make sure they are not putting themselves, their families or their homes at risk by doing so.”

He urged everyone to be vigilant and follow some basic safety guidelines when using fairy lights and other illuminated decorations over the festive period:

Check Christmas lights conform to British Standards guidelines or have the European “CE” safety mark.

Check each set of lights, old or new, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wire or any loose connections. Throw out all damaged sets.

Always ensure the lights are switched off (by removing the plug from the mains) before inserting or removing bulbs and use only the correct bulb for that particular set of lights.

Always use an RCD on outdoor electrical equipment (RCD is a residual current device designed to protect against electrocution by instantly switching off the power).

Take care not to overload electrical sockets.

Do not let the bulbs come into contact with anything that might burn easily (such as wrapping paper).

Only use lights designed for external use outside.

Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, walls and fences, out of reach of young children.

Always turn off Christmas lights when leaving the house or go to bed at night.

He also urged everyone to double check that their smoke alarms were working as they put up their Christmas lights.