Be Safe, Be Smart—and Let's Keep the Wreath Red
Those boughs of holly are beautiful—but holiday decorations can also be dangerous. Here are some tips to prevent fires, and keep the Geneva Fire Department wreath red.
Anyone driving on East Side Drive past the headquarters of the Geneva Fire Department might wonder why there's a snowman with a plea to "Keep the Wreath Red." Red? Wreaths are green!
In this case, red—one of the Christmas colors, after all—is indeed the desired color.
The festive wreath, attached to the small house—and by the way, firefighters made the entire display—is the centerpiece of the "Keep the Wreath Red" public awareness program designed to remind people to be careful with holiday decorations (including those for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other winter holidays, of course.)
The wreath has red bulbs, for now at least. Should there be a fire in Geneva caused by holiday decorations, a white bulb sadly will replace one of the cheery red ones.
The program has been around since 1980, when the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association adopted it as a way for its members to keep their residents alert to the dangers of fires caused by holiday decorations.
And are decorations really a hazard? The National Fire Protection Association says one-quarter of home decoration fires occur in December, that more than half such fires are started by candles and that half of holiday decoration fires occur because decorations are too close to a heat source.
And U.S. fire departments respond to approximately 260 home structure fires each year that begin with the Christmas tree—one-third of those are caused by electrical problems and one-fifth are caused by a too-close heat source. And candles?
December is the peak month for home candle fires, according to the NFPA, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day representing two of the top five days for associated fires. (This is why our house doesn't get to have lit candles very often; the resident firefighter won't let us. Ha! Sometimes we overrule him, though.)
Here are some firefighter-approved tips so we in Geneva can "Keep the Wreath Red:"
- Select only fresh trees that are deep green and have a strong scent of pine. Trees should not lose their needles easily.
- Keep tree stands filled with water.
- Verify that artificial trees are flame-retardant, and keep all trees away from fireplaces or heating vents.
- Make sure the tree isn't blocking an exit and is at least 3 feet away from any heat source.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Turn off tree lights before leaving the room or going to bed.
- Buy and use lights approved by UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
- Discard lights with frayed or worn cords, broken or cracked sockets, loose connections or bare wires, or that operate intermittently.
- Never use indoor lights outdoors.
- Do not overload electrical outlets.
- Do not run extension cords under carpets, across doorways, or near heaters.
- Unplug lights when you leave home and before going to bed.
- Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Keep candles away from combustibles such as clothing, books, curtains and flammable liquids.
- Use candleholders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
More information is available at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens/focus/holiday.shtm and at http://www.nfpa.org/newsReleaseDetails.asp?categoryid=488&itemId=49741&rss=NFPAnewsreleases