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Fire Officials: Keep The Wreath Green This Holiday Season


Tuesday marks the kickoff of “Keep the Wreath Green,” a fire safety campaign involving Escambia County Fire-Rescue, Pensacola Fire Department, and departments in Santa Rosa County.

Each year on average, about 400 people die and 16,000 others are injured in holiday fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Property damage totals around $1 billion.

That’s where “Keep the Wreath Green” comes in.

“It’s a method to put a visual indicator of fire safety during an important time of the year,” said Pensacola Fire Marshal David Allen.

During the month-long campaign, five-foot wreaths will be on display at fire stations in Escambia and Santa Rosa, along with other locations in the two counties. For every residential blaze or wildfire, a red bulb replaces one of the green. There were nine fires reported in Escambia County during last year’s campaign.

While the goal is keeping as few red bulbs on the wreaths as possible, Lt. Dan Akerman at Escambia Fire Rescue says it’s a matter of putting off as long as they can, what they concede to be inevitable. He adds that the most common cause of a home fire this time of year is a faulty or misused space heater.

“A lot of times they forget to do one of two things,” said Akerman. “They either put it too close to items, and need to have about three feet of space away from anything combustible. Or they overuse it and leave it on when they’re going to sleep or when they leave the room.”

Another hazard is the improper use of extension cords and the “daisy-chaining” of multiple Christmas lights. Pensacola Fire Marshal David Allen says always check the instructions.

The open flame of a holiday candle is another cause of seasonal fires in the home. Candles should only be lit in occupied rooms, resting upon a wide base or holder.

For many, a live tree is the symbol of Christmas – but it can also be a home’s most dangerous fire hazard. Allen says rule number one is keeping the hydrated by checking the water level each day. After the holidays, there will be locations in Pensacola and EscaRosa to bring the trees for disposal.

With the holidays’ increased fire threat, it’s essential that all safety equipment is in good working order – including a fire extinguisher that’s “in the green.”

“Check the gauge to make sure it’s ‘in the green,’” Allen said. “You want to locate it somewhere near a door exiting the house. Many times that’s the laundry room.”

Also make sure and check your smoke alarms, replacing the batteries – or even the entire alarm if necessary. And develop an escape plan for the family, taking extra care for children and seniors.

Daily safety tips during “Keep the Wreath Green” in December can be found at www.pensacola-fire.com and at www.keepthewreathgreen.com

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.