It’s become a holiday tradition, both nationally and in Northwest Florida. “Keep the Wreath Green” is back for the month of December beginning Saturday.
Locally, the holiday fire safety campaign involves Escambia County Fire-Rescue and Pensacola Fire Department. In all, there are 23, five-foot wreaths countywide. Pensacola Fire Chief Ginny Cranor says it’s a simple concept.
“There’s five city fire stations, 18 county fire stations,” says Cranor. “You’ll see one at [Pensacola] City Hall and the [Escambia] Government Building downtown, and also at Cordova Mall [near the food court entrance].”
Any time there’s a structure fire in the county, Escambia Fire-Rescue will replace one of their green bulbs with a red bulb; any such fire in the city of Pensacola Fire Department will do the same.
In 2017, the two fire departments answered a total of 17 residential fire calls.
According to the United States Fire Administration, fires in the winter kill more than 900 people and cause over $2 billion in damages. Cooking is the leading cause.
“Cooking fires account for about 455 fires daily [nationwide]; we can expect to see four times that after Thanksgiving,” Cranor said. “We really encourage everyone to never leave anything unattended, so we ask that somebody's always monitoring those while cooking is occurring.”
For many, a live tree is the symbol of Christmas – but it can also be a home’s most dangerous fire hazard. That’s the subject of a video produced by Escambia County Fire-Rescue.
“Unfortunately, Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires each year,” intones the narrator. “One-third of Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems. Though these fires are uncommon, when they do happen they’re often fatal.”
Christmas tree fires alone cause $13 million in property damage each year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. The combination of tree dryness, malfunctioning lights, and poorly-located heating sources can make for a dangerous troika.
“When buying a real tree, be sure to test it for freshness and keep it well-watered; pull on the branches to be sure the needles don’t fall off easily,” says the video. “When buying an artificial tree, make sure it has the UL Label of Approval. When decorating, only use UL-labeled lights and flame-retardant material. Also, check on holiday lights for frayed wires and excessive wear.”
One of the best home protective measures is a working smoke detector, which Pensacola Fire Chief Ginny Cranor says are proven lifesavers.
“Check your smoke alarms every month and make sure that they’re working, and change the batteries in them in the spring and the fall around when you would change your clocks,” Cranor says.
The alarms are now coming with batteries whose lives are up to ten years. Cranor recommends that you change to those.