Bright lights on the Christmas tree, a festively decorated house, a warm fire in the fireplace. This is the time of year people celebrate family, friends and the joy of the season.
It's also time to check the batteries in the smoke alarms and take some extra precautions to prevent a fire.
"The top thing on the list is to check the batteries in the smoke alarm," said Daron Evans, administrator for the Cassville Fire Protection District. "Make sure the alarms are working properly."
Evans said batteries should be changed at least twice a year, when Daylight Saving Time starts and ends.
"People in the district who don't have fire alarms can call the office, and we will come and install them," Evans said. "Many residents are not aware that we provide that service. We can also change batteries for residents in the district."
Another important step to making sure this holiday season is a safe one is to make sure electrical circuits are not overloaded.
"That is one of the biggest factors in fires at this time of year," Evans said. "When people have too many things plugged into one outlet it can be very dangerous."
Evans recommends plugging holiday lights and decorations into a surge protector.
"A surge protector will trip out before a fire can start," Evans said. "
Those who choose to use live trees should make sure they are kept far from a fireplace, candles or other heat sources.
"Cut trees dry out within a few days," Evans said. "One spark can send a tree up in flames in a matter of seconds."
Holiday lights, both interior and exterior, should also be inspected and not used if there are any frayed or bare wiring exposed.
"People hanging outside lights should take care not to staple through the wire," Evans said. "Metal staples will conduct electricity and that becomes a fire hazard."
While holiday stockings are typically displayed on a mantelpiece, Evans urges homeowners to make sure they are far enough away from the flames they do not conduct heat. He also recommends fireplace screens be used to prevent sparks from flying into the room and potentially causing a fire.
Evans said those using space heaters indoors should make sure they are in good working order and do not have open, exposed coils.
"Anything could fall into an open coil heater and start a blaze," Evans said. "Residents also need to make sure the space heaters don't overload electrical outlets or get too close to bed clothing or other flammable materials."
Those using electric as a power source should also take care not to use extension cords that are too long for their intended use.
"A lot of people will try to hide the excess cord under their carpeting or by rolling it up and stashing it out of sight," Evans said. "They don't know that when an extension cord is rolled up tight like that, it can heat up, causing it to arc out and start a fire.
"Something similar happens when cords are hidden under carpets," he continued. "They build up heat and spark a fire."
Evans also warns residents about burning paper wrapping.
"Don't burn it in the fireplace," he said. "It doesn't burn up completely. That is how a lot of flue fires start."
Heaters using kerosene or propane heaters should take care to use them in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.
"They are not meant to be used indoors," Evans said. "They can build up deadly carbon monoxide fumes."
Most importantly, Evans urges families to make an escape plan, utilizing at least two exits.
"People should have an evacuation plan and a designated meeting spot," he said, "especially families with children. They should periodically practice the plan, so in the event of a real emergency they know what to do and where to go."