This week marked the beginning of the Cape Coral Fire Department’s annual “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety campaign. For the eighth 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, holiday decorations, candles, etc. occurs between December 1 and January 1, one of the green bulbs will change to red.
Though 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 Ryan W. Lamb. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”
With the additional use of decorative lighting, live Christmas trees, increased cooking activities, 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.
- Choose holiday decorations carefully, using those only made of flame-resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials.
- 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.
- Keep decorations away from windows and doors that might be needed as a means of escape.
- Keep candles at least 12” away from decorations or other combustible materials. Two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles.
- Never leave candles unattended. Extinguish them when you leave the room.
- Use sturdy candle holders that won’t tip over.
- Use only lights listed by an independent testing laboratory and pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
- 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.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not become damaged.
- Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
- Christmas trees:
- Before purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
- 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.
- Have the tree lot operator provide a “fresh cut” by removing 1-2” from the base of the trunk.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Cape Coral Fire Department has provided all Christmas tree vendors in Cape Coral with tree hanger tags that are printed with these important safety tips to remind consumers what precautions to take to prevent Christmas tree fires.
- 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.
- 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.
- When simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, stay in the home and check on it frequently; use a timer as a reminder if necessary.
- Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
- Ask smokers to smoke outside.
- Use large, deep ashtrays and wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
- Keep matches and lighters up high, away from children.
Also, 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.
“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” says Public Affairs Specialist Andrea Schuch.
“By taking simple precautions, Cape Coral residents and visitors can stay safe, have holidays that are healthy and happy, and avoid potential fire hazards to ‘Keep the Wreath Green.’”