LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Burning gift wrap and other highly flammable holiday trash in residential fireplaces is dangerous and it can be deadly, the Los Angeles Fire Department warned residents today.

Most fireplaces are designed to use natural gas or dry firewood to support small, decorative fires that enhance ambience, Brian Humphrey of the LAFD said.

Trying to burn gift wrap paper, ribbons, cardboard boxes, scrap lumber, or even parts of a Christmas Tree can create excessively large and hot fires, which can damage fireplaces and chimneys–or suddenly flare out of control.

Each year, people lose their homes to these unexpected, fast-moving fires, Humphrey said.

Burning improper items can also create embers that bypass missing or damaged spark arresters.

“These embers cause roof and attic fires that can destroy your home and everything in it,” Humphrey said.

Burning improper items in a fireplace can also create fumes that make people ill and harm the environment, according to the fire department.

The winter holiday season is also time to pay special attention and care to the lighting, placement and disposal of candles, Humphrey said.

Leaving lit candles inside a home packed with flammable items and holiday decorations is an invitation to disaster. Anyone or anything can knock over a candle–including a pet, a wayward toy, or a distracted adult.

More information is available at the Los Angeles Fire Department website, http://lafd.org/