Keep the Wreath Green

The Cape Coral Fire Department’s “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety campaign began Thursday, December 1. For the fourth year, Cape Coral firefighters have placed a wreath illuminated with green bulbs at Fire Station 4, located at 2007 Santa Barbara Boulevard.  If a preventable fire such as cooking, smoking, space heaters, candles, etc. occurs between December 1 and January 1, one of the green bulbs will change to red. Last year the campaign saw a leap in community fire safety during the holidays. For the previous two years, the campaign ended with the wreath displaying five red bulbs, but last year ended with only one red bulb on the wreath! While the goal is for there to be no red bulbs, we are happy to see fewer green bulbs turning red, indicating that the community is becoming more fire safety conscious during the holidays.

While fire safety should be a year-round priority, particular precautions need to be taken during the holiday season, and the “Keep the Wreath Green” campaign serves as a reminder of this. With the hectic holiday season, it is easy for families to become complacent about fire safety. “As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” says Fire Chief Donald Cochran. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”

With the additional use of fireplaces, decorative lighting, live Christmas trees, and the burning of candles, the risk of fire in homes increases. Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody. “By taking some preventative steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented,” says Andrea Schuch, Public Information Officer for the Cape Coral Fire Department.

To prevent these holiday fires and to help “Keep the Wreath Green,” the Cape Coral Fire Department offers these holiday safety tips:

  • Decorations:

o   Choose holiday decorations carefully, using those only made of flame-resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials.

o   Keep decorations away from heat sources. Of the fires that began with decorations, nearly half occurred due to the decoration’s proximity to a heat source.

o   Keep decorations away from windows and doors that might be needed as a means of escape.

  • Candles:

o   Keep candles at least 12” away from decorations or other combustible materials. Two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles.

o   Never leave candles unattended. Extinguish them when you leave the room.

o   Use sturdy candle holders that won’t tip over.

  • Lights:

o   Use only lights listed by an independent testing laboratory and pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

o   Closely inspect all holiday lighting before use to insure all wires, bulbs and connections are in a safe condition. Discard any lights with exposed wires, broken insulation, cracked or missing bulbs, or other defects.

o   Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

o   Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.

  • Christmas trees:

o   Before purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

o   When choosing a live Christmas tree, look for signs of freshness by lightly pulling branches through your closed fist. Fresh trees should retain their needles during this test.

o   Have the tree lot operator provide a “fresh cut” by removing 1-2” from the base of the trunk.

o    Immediately place the tree in water and add water daily. Keep a close check on the dryness of the tree and remove the tree when needles easily fall off.

o   Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit and is at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

  • Cooking:

o   Unattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries. After Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the peak days for home cooking fires.

o   When frying, grilling, or broiling, stay in the kitchen. Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stovetop and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time.

o   When simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, stay in the home and check on it frequently; use a timer as a reminder if necessary.

o   Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

  • Smoking:

o   Ask smokers to smoke outside.

o   Provide them with large, deep ashtrays, and wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.

o   Keep matches and lighters up high, away from children.

  • Ensure there is a working smoke alarm on each level of your home and practice fire escape plans with all family members and holiday guests.

he holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” says Andrea Schuch. “By taking simple precautions, the citizens of Cape Coral can stay safe and “Keep the Wreath Green” by avoiding potential fire hazards and making this time of year a healthy and happy one.”