HOUSTON -

The lights are up, the tree is lit and there's hot cider simmering on the stove. It sounds like Christmas to most people, but to Houston firefighters it sounds like a potential fire hazard.

An increase in house and apartment fires happen every year around the holidays, firefighters said.

Crews battled nearly 60 apartment fires in Houston alone in December 2011, said Ruy Lozano with the Houston fire Department.

"We have a lot of fires in this time of year that can easily be prevented if we follow certain precautions," he said.

Firefighters gave households advice to protect themselves.

  • Do not overloaded electric outlets.
  • Make sure to get a surge protector and look for UL on the cord. That indicates the cord has been properly inspected and approved.
  • Keep the wick on candles trimmed. Wicks shouldn't be any longer than a quarter of an inch or it will burn too hot.
  • Firefighters recommend fake Christmas trees, but if a real one is purchased, make sure it's fresh and keep it watered.
  • Make sure all space heaters in homes are ones that were made after 2001. Newer space heaters will automatically shut off if they are tipped over.

The Houston Fire Department provides free detectors to families who can't afford them.