Why Is There a Red-Lighted Wreath at the Geneva Fire Station?

Each year, the Geneva Fire Department asks residents to "Keep the Wreath Red."

For reasons we can't explain, Geneva Patch once again proudly presents ''Ask Mister Geneva Person,'' the No. 1 Geneva-related Q&A column in Geneva, as far as we know.

Our first question comes from the writer of this column, because no readers have actually asked a question yet.

Q: Why is there a red-lighted wreath in front of the Geneva Fire Department station on East Side Drive this time of year?

MGP: We're glad you asked. It's part of the "Keep the Wreath Red" public awareness program designed to remind people to be careful with holiday decorations.

Q: Why is it a wreath instead of, say, a Menorah or Kwanzaa candles?

MGP: We have no idea, but we're guessing it might not have been politically correct to start a fire-safety campaign that suggests keeping the Menorah or Kwanzaa candles unlit.

Q: Why is the wreath red? Shouldn't it be "keep the wreath green"—like a green light for go?

MGP: Yes, it should.

Q: Want to elaborate on that?

A: The color decision is not Geneva's fault. The campaign was started by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association back in 1980.

Q: How does it work?

MGP: The wreath has red bulbs. If there's a fire in Geneva caused by holiday decorations, a sad white bulb will replace one of the cheery, cherry-red ones. 

Q: Are decorations really a hazard?

MGP: Oh, yeah. Just check out that candle fire Thursday in St. Charles. According to a previously published Beth Bales' column, 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.

Q: Don't you ever do any of your own original work?

MGP: I try to aggregate as much as possible.

Q: Does Geneva's fire chief follow the rules and keep candles out of his house during the holiday season?

MGP: Yes, unless his family overrules him. (See previously published Beth Bales column. :)

Q: What else does Beth's previous column say?

MGP: We're glad you asked. Here are some firefighter-approved tips so we in Geneva can "Keep the Wreath Red:"

Christmas Trees

  • 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.

Holiday Lights 

  • 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 candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.

Q: Is there anyplace we can go for actual, useful information about the causes of winter fires, winter storm fire safety, holiday fires safety, and tips that will help prevent the incidence of fire in the home,that's not in a silly Q&A format?

MGP: Visit the USFA website atwww.usfa.fema.gov/winter, or call the Geneva Fire Department at 630-232-2530, Ext. 2067. (At least, that's the number we provided in an article last year.)


Got a question for Ask Mr. Geneva Person?

Jon Azavedo December 17, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Hey, Mr. Geneva, why is the town losing it's character and becoming so generic? I mean, it was bad enough when Little Owl tried to go upscale, now I can't even get a good cocktail in there. But putting a Caribou on Third Street? Cmon, that belongs on Randall Road. What gives?


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