Contact: Assistant Chief Terry Cassil
Duty PIO Pager 573-441-6608 (24 hours - Leave detailed message)
Office 573-874-7553 (M-F, 8-5)
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 5, 2013 through January 6, 2014. 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.
Fires occur due to a number of reasons, the most common over the holidays are:
Unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in Columbia year-round. During the holidays, are we prepare more meals, and holiday treats, we are frequently in the kitchen. Make sure you don't leave cooking unattended, not even for a minute. And if you decide to deep fry that turkey or other meats, note that Underwriters Laboratory (UL) does not rate or "seal" any make, model, or brand of turkey fryers. If you use a fryer, make sure it's on a non-combustible, stable, and level surface away from any other combustibles such as exterior siding. Use only the oil and the amount recommended by the manufactures and use extreme caution when placing the meat in the fryer.
Unattended open flames, such as candles or the use of fire places and woodstoves are one of the top five causes of fires. 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. Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned before first use. Outdoor Chiminia's (stone pottery or iron outdoor fireplaces), should be used with extreme caution and should never be used on wooden decks or placed within five (5) feet of combustible materials such as exterior siding.
Discarded smoking materials are also a leading cause of fire. During holiday parties, when smoking in allowed, make sure guests have deep non-combustible ashtrays. When emptying those ashtrays after the party, don't just throw the contents into a trash can or bag, soak the contents in water for several minutes to ensure the smoking materials are completely out. And don't forget that many smoking related fires begin outdoors. Discarding smoking materials into the yard or a mulched flower bed has started a number of fires in Columbia this year.
Natural trees are a big part of our holiday tradition. Natural trees 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. Bounce the butt of the tree on the ground and note the amount of needles which fall to gauge the freshness of the tree. 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, and portable heating appliances away from the tree. Remove the tree from the home as soon as possible after the holiday. The City of Columbia will announce the tree recycling program in mid to late December.
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, and 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 - a 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!