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But will it work? HELLO, HOT LINE: I have a home portable fire extinguisher that I bought in June 1978. It has never been discharged. The pressure dial indicates it is in proper operating range. Can I rely on the dial reading after nearly 12 years? How often should an extinguisher be inspected by a professional company? E.G.

Dear E.G.: The gauge measures the pressure in the can and not necessarily the effectiveness of what's inside, said Capt. C.W. Whitworth, a fire investigator with the Greensboro Fire Department.The extinguishing material in the can may cake up after a few years and may not be effective, he said. When the dial signals recharge, it just means the chemical that expels the material has leaked out.

By law, businesses must have extinguishers inspected once a year, and Whitworth suggest homeowners follow the same practice.

Several companies service fire extinguishers and can be found listed under ``Fire Extinguishers' in the Yellow Pages. You can have your extinguisher checked for as little as $2.50.

Cookie profits HELLO, HOT LINE: I've learned that each Girl Scout troop gets 30 cents for each box of cookies it sells. The cookies cost $2.50. What happens to the rest of the money? P.C.

Dear P.C.: Most of the money goes to the Tarheel Triad Girl Scout Council, which provides camping facilities and services for nearly 700 troops in a 13-county region, said Judith McPherson, manager of the cookie sales. A smaller portion goes directly to the cookie bakers.

Last year the troops in the council profited to the tune of $220,000 from cookie sales, McPherson said.

The cookie sales provide 43 percent of the council's operating budget, which accounts for troop starter kits, training programs and other supplies and services. The money also supplies all of the council's capital budget, which includes maintenance of camping facilities, supplies, copiers and computers.

Calling all label savers HELLO, HOT LINE: I'm curious about Campbell Soups' Labels for Education program. Is there anyone in the area using them? J.A.

Dear J.A.: The program is open to schools, including preschools, and libraries. Participants collect labels and exchange them for sports, educational, or musical equipment.

For example, 2,000 labels can be exchanged for a cassette player, and 25,000 each can be used for a television or a videocassette recorder.

If someone would like to be on the company's mailing list, that person can call (612) 295-5570, collect, to register for catalogs to be mailed in November.

If anyone participates in this area, we'd like to hear from you. We'll publish the results in HOT LINE.

Don't just toss them HELLO, HOT LINE READERS: If you are among the millions of consumers targeted by major credit card organizations to receive a charge card or any credit card in the mail, beware, warns the non-profit National Center for Financial Education based in San Diego.

If you don't want a credit card currently held or one you receive in the mail, don't just cut it up and throw it away. Cut it up and return it to the issuer.

Otherwise, you may have an open line of credit appearing on your credit report. From a potential creditor's view, the NCFE advises, that credit could be used at any time. This could preclude your obtaining needed credit or an increase in present credit limits.


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