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Officials remind people of Christmas light recalls issued in July

Two recalls of Christmas lighting products - one issued in July, the other last spring - may have been overlooked or forgotten by some state residents.

"People may have these products and not even realize it," said state Fire Marshal Bill Degnan. "If they do, they should heed the recall warning and not use them."

Family Dollar Stores Inc. voluntarily recalled about 280,000 Mini Lights because they could cause a fire or an electrical shock, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The lights don't meet the Underwriters Laboratory standard for the product, the commission said.

Three complaints of overheating were reported, but there were no injuries.

The lights come in a red box with "200 Mini Lights" and "Multi Lights, Green Wire" printed on it. On the back of the box are the identifying numbers SKU #2211428 and UPC #049696720465. The lights' power cord has a tag with UL Listing #E346525 and Model #F0L200A4S.

The light sets were sold for $8 at Family Dollar stores between September and December 2011 and can be returned to the store for a full refund. A company website lists 19 stores in New Hampshire, located from Nashua to Laconia, including two in Manchester.

Also recalled by the commission were Brookfield Entry Way Tree Sets sold at True Value Hardware stores beginning last November for about $40. The sets include two green artificial 4-foot trees in black metal vases, one green 24-inch-wide wreath and one green 9-foot-long garland. The wreath has battery-powered white lights, and the commission said the battery box can overheat.

The product was sold as True Value Item #136879, with UPC Code 0 29033 36798 0 printed on the box.

Between 2005 and 2009, lights on Christmas trees caused an average of 240 home fires a year that required a response by firefighters, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The blazes killed 13 people, injured 27 and resulted in $16.7 million in direct property damage each year.

One-third of the fires were sparked by electrical malfunctions, while 18 percent were intentionally set, likely during disposal of the trees.

During the same period, 150 blazes annually were ignited by holiday lights not on Christmas trees, leading to $8.5 million in damage a year, according to the NFPA.

"When they are pulling out their display lights, they should take a minute to inspect them for frayed wires or other damage," said Degnan. "This type of damage can occur while the equipment is stored, after being exposed to weather. If there are any signs of damage, the equipment should be replaced."

Degnan offered the following advice for homeowners:

-- Use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory. Lights for both indoor and outdoor use must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify.

On most decorative lights available in stores, Underwriters Laboratory's red holographic label signifies that the product meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use.

The holographic label, with the green UL Mark, signifies it meets requirements for only indoor use.

-- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets, and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.

-- Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use.

-- Check outdoor lights for labels showing that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a receptacle protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter or a portable GFCI.

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