Already, we are seeing a sprinkling of homes decorated for Christmas. Once Thanksgiving is over, the holiday decorating season will begin in full force.

And, once again, fire officials are urging everyone to be extremely careful.

Don't let this Christmas season turn to tragedy. Festive lighting, windowsill candles and ornamented Christmas trees are staples of the holidays, but these decorative items also pose a fire risk if handled improperly.

Every year we read reports of house fires related to improper installation of Christmas decorations.

On average, one of every 18 reported home Christmas tree fires result in a death, compared to an average of one death per 141 total home fires.

Decorative holiday lighting was involved in an estimated average of 150 home fires per year during the past few years. These fires caused about $8.5 million in property damage per year.

Local and national fire protection agencies annually put out a list of tips to help avoid a fire in your home.

For safe holiday decorating choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant and keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn. Check the packaging - some lights are only for indoor use, and bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections and connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged, and keep decorations away from windows and doors.

For proper Christmas tree safety, keep your tree well watered.  A dry tree can be extremely dangerous. Never use lit candles to decorate the tree and always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. Finally, don't leave a dry tree in your home after Christmas.

Enjoy the lights of the Christmas season, but please be careful when setting up decorations.