A smoke detector may not be the most romantic Christmas gift, but it might be the most important, say local fire officials.

"Give the gift of life, give a smoke detector," said Jay Miles, director of public education for the Salt Lake County Fire Department. "When you're asleep you turn your body off and your nose goes first" and you don't smell smoke, he explained."I highly recommend each family have a smoke detector," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Robert Adams.

"The problem is a lot of people aren't maintaining them," said Miles. Detectors already in place should be checked for dead or weakened batteries.

Other fire safety tips for the holidays include:

- Have chimneys cleaned and checked for cracked bricks or other damage every year. "When the flue pipe clogs up, there isn't enough room for the hot gases to escape, so they start fires in the surrounding structure," said Sandy Fire Capt. Dave Meldrum.

- Check strings of lights and other electrical decorations for frayed or damaged cords. Replace damaged strings with Underwriters Laboratory-approved products.

- Monitor live Christmas trees for dryness and keep them away from heat sources like vents and unattended lights. The tree should be kept in water and disposed of if it becomes too dry. "A dry Christmas tree represents a bomb, they burn very rapidly and give off intense heat," said Miles.

- Keep a close eye on children and sources of heat and electricity that are left in their reach. Toddlers may try to put lights or other ornaments in their mouths, said Adams.

Fire departments get busier during the holiday season, said Miles, because there are more candles, more decorations and more cooking going on than at any other time of the year. The fires that do occur are often costlier for the people involved.

"Those fires that we see during the Christmas season are, number one, more expensive; the dollar loss is generally more than we see the rest of the year, and number two, the family is more devastated. They've lost their home and what Christmas they had," said Meldrum.