Fourth of July has its fireworks-fueled blazes, Halloween its tainted candy scares and New Year's Eve its errant gunshots.

But could sweet little Valentine's Day pose a public hazard?

Yes, say the folks at PG&E -- and it's not from overindulging in See's Black Forest Truffles. It's the danger of helium-filled Mylar balloons.

"Metallic balloons that contact overhead power lines can disrupt electric service to an entire neighborhood, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious personal injuries," says the utility's missive to the public.

The danger is real, Pacific Gas & Electric says, citing nearly 300 outages last year that cut service to more than 150,000 PG&E customers in central and Northern California.

And yes, adults like metallic balloon greetings as much as kids do.

"They're actually pretty popular," said Emily Dawkins, an employee at Citti's Florist in Campbell, which extended its hours Sunday to take Valentine's orders.

The metallic polyester-film balloons are more attractively designed, Dawkins said, and also will stay inflated and floating for two to three weeks, compared with latex helium balloons that are plainer and sometimes deflate in a day or two.

So if you must announce "I Love You" in shiny letters hovering above a vase of red roses, PG&E asks that you keep the balloons indoors, don't bundle them, avoid overhead electric lines, and never untie balloons from their weights.


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And never try to retrieve any balloon that gets entangled in a power line. Just call the utility.

Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775.

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