Your Place: Tips to reduce the risk of house fires

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

October is Fire Prevention Month, so as a public service designed to reduce the number of calls for electrical fires, "Your Place" offers the following tips from Leviton, manufacturer of electrical devices and lighting controls (dimmers, switches):

Extension cords are intended only for temporary use. Each year 3,330 residential fires originate near extension cords, the Electrical Safety Foundation International says, often because homeowners are using them incorrectly.

The average light fixture can accommodate only a 60-watt bulb. Using a bulb with a higher wattage than the fixture is able to accommodate is called "overlamping" and should be avoided. Always be sure to check the warning label on a fixture or lamp for the maximum wattage.

The third prong of an electrical plug should never be removed just to fit an outlet.

An electrical outlet could be a fire hazard if it wonít hold a plug tightly. If part of the outlet is cracked or if it is discolored, the receptacle is damaged, and itís best to change it as soon as possible in hopes of preventing one of the 5,300 fires that originate near electrical receptacles each year.

More than 50 percent of the electrical fires that occur every year could be prevented with the installation of arc fault circuit interrupters. AFCIs immediately shut off power when a fire hazard ó or arc fault ó is recognized.

Before doing any electrical-wiring projects yourself, refer to credible online resources, such as Underwriters Laboratories. These resources outline electrical-safety practices recognized by professionals in the industry and should be followed carefully while completing any electrical-wiring projects, to avoid serious fire hazards in the home.

If you are unsure about any aspect of an electrical project, consult a licensed electrician.