CES challenges community to 'Keep the Wreath Green'

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007

As minds turn toward celebration this holiday season and people find ways to battle the cold, Central Emergency Services is asking families to be aware that as the temperatures decrease, the risk of fire in their home increases.

In order to promote fire safety during the holidays, CES will kick off its Keep the Wreath Green program by displaying its holiday wreath on the Binkley side of the Soldotna station. Every time CES firefighters get called to a structure fire, a light bulb will change from green to red. CES will also add a white bulb to honor firefighters across the country who have died in the line of duty this season.

Gary Hale, CES fire marshal, said the wreath serves as a visual reminder that people need to be aware of the many fire hazards that occur during the holiday season. Most fires this season are caused by poorly insulated Christmas lights, overloaded electrical outlets and candles that have been left unattended. Chimney fires are also common this time of year.

"I think people may get a little lax," he said, adding that electrical fires are some of the more common calls CES firefighters get. "For the fourth year for us, we've always had some type of structure fire, so our wreath has never been totally green. I think the most lights we've ever actually lighted has been three."

Three structure fires may not sound like a lot, but Hale said CES averages approximately two structure fires a month. Electric space heaters are often a problem during the winter months. Hale said that most space heaters require a 36-inch distance between it and the nearest object, but a lot of fires result from heaters that were too close to bedding, curtains and clothes. Fires have also ignited because of a Christmas tree that was too close to a space heater.

"The biggest problem in having live Christmas trees is your tree will dry out extremely fast and those needles will come off," Hale said, reminding residents to keep them away from space heaters, fireplaces and stoves. He said there are mixtures of sugar and other substances to keep trees hydrated. "It's just like a black spruce or a beetle killed tree. If it gets too close to a flame, it's gone in the blink of an eye."

In order to prevent fires, particularly from unattended candles, Hale said they should be placed in a noncombustible container such as glass. Setting a candle on a porcelain platform or leaving it in the container it came in might also help prevent a fire. Hale also reminds folks to extinguish their candles once they leave the area.

The 5-foot-diameter wreath was made by students of Skyview High School's woodshop class four years ago, Hale said. It's very heavy and difficult for people to miss, he said.

"People aren't aware of how many fires we may have during the holiday season," Hale said. "We get more questions all the time. It's more of an awareness program, it's nice to be asked."

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.

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