During this holiday season, the Columbia Fire Department is continuing the annual fire service tradition of Operation Red Wreath. In Columbia, the downtown fire station on 10th Street will display a wreath adorned with red holiday lights from December 1, 2009 through January 4, 2010. The challenge to Columbia residents is to keep the lights red. Should a fire occur in Columbia that involves holiday related activities; a bulb in the wreath will be changed from red to white. The purpose of this campaign is to remind everyone that the happiness of the holiday season can be forever changed in an instant by fire. Common sense and awareness of fire threats can help to keep the wreath red.
During the 2008-2009 Red Wreath Challenge, the Columbia Fire Department is proud to report that no fires related to holiday activities were reported. In the 2006-2007 campaign, three fires were reported during the period; two unattended cooking fires while preparing holiday meals and one improper disposal of smoking materials after a holiday gathering.
Fires occur due to unattended open flames, such as candles or the use of fire places and woodstoves. Candle related fires have continued to increase in the past several years in Columbia. Make sure candles are well-secured in a proper holder and kept at least three feet away from anything combustible. Never leave a candle burning when you leave the room, the house, or retire for the night.
Natural trees are a big part of our holiday tradition. Natural tree's can be a safe holiday tradition, however, natural Christmas trees may become fire hazards if not kept well-watered. Water your tree daily. When you purchase your tree, do so from a reputable dealer. Make sure the tree is fresh and not dry. Make sure a fresh cut is made to the trunk of the tree to aid in water absorption before placing the tree in its stand. Don't place the tree near heating vents or fireplaces that could dry the tree out prematurely. Keep open flames such as candles away from the tree. Remove the tree from the home as soon as possible after the holiday.
Use extra care with electrical extension cords and decorative lights. Use only decorative lights that display the Underwriter's Laboratory, (UL) label. Read and follow the manufacturer's guidelines for how to use decorative lights and how many strings of lights can be connected together. Frayed cords and overloaded electrical circuits can be a cause of holiday fires.
If decorating outdoors, make sure the decorations are listed for outdoor use. If using a ladder to install decorations, make sure that the ladder is in good condition, rated for the proper weight load, make sure that you do not over extend your reach while on the ladder, and watch for overhead power lines. Always make sure that the base of the ladder is firmly secure to the ground. Work off of a level surface. It is always best practice to have another person with you if working on a ladder to assist or steady the ladder if needed.
In the event you're still searching for that gift for someone on your list, consider the gift of life by giving a smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm. Industry expert's state that battery operated smoke detectors more than 10 years old should be replaced. If you can't recall when you bought and installed your smoke detector, now is a great time to purchase a new unit. The cost of even the top of the line smoke detectors is often less than $15 and many have batteries that will last up to 10 years. Carbon monoxide - an colorless, odorless gas - presents invisible danger all year long but especially during the cold winter months. Today's carbon monoxide detectors are more accurate and dependable than ever and generally cost less than $30. No home should be without at least one Carbon Monoxide detector.
Please, help us keep our wreath red!