Operation Red Wreath to prevent fires in Columbia

The department adopted the idea from the Joliet Fire Department in Illinois. 
The Columbia Fire Department decorates its station with Christmas lights for the annual Operation Red Wreath campaign. The changing of red lights to white symbolizes a holiday-related residential fire.

During the holiday season, residents might notice a large wreath with red lights at the Columbia Fire Department on Tenth Street. This wreath is there to celebrate not only the season but also the lack of fires.

Operation Red Wreath is a fire service tradition, according to a fire department press release. The fire department will display the wreath from Friday to Jan. 2, 2013.

Operation Red Wreath challenges Columbia residents to keep all 39 lights on the wreath red. If a fire occurs because of holiday activities, a red light bulb on the wreath will be replaced with a white one.

“The wreath is a focal point and visual aid for the community,” Frazier said. “The goal is to work together to keep the wreath red.”

As of Monday night, no lights on the wreath are white. Columbia residents need to keep a close eye on their holiday celebrations, Battalion Chief Brad Frazier said.

“Fire is especially tragic during the holidays,” Frazier said. “It’s a bad time to be dealing with something like that. The amount of fires during the holiday season has not increased, but the potential is there.”

Operation Red Wreath began 10 years ago when the Columbia Fire Department adopted the idea from the Joliet Fire Department in Illinois.

Certain holiday activities can increase the risk of fires, according to the news release. Candles and fireplaces are dangerous if left unattended, and even the holiday tannenbaum is a fire hazard.

“Christmas trees in the home can dry out,” Frazier said. “And cooking is the leading cause of fire.”

The fire department said it recommends buying a fresh, dry tree from a reputable dealer. The tree should be kept away from fireplaces and heating vents as they might dry the tree out. After the holidays are over, the tree should be removed as soon as possible. The fire department suggests using Columbia’s tree recycling program to get rid of unwanted trees.

A safer alternative is a fake tree. These trees will never brown or dry out and can be used year after year.

Cooking, if left unattended or done improperly, is extremely dangerous during the holidays, especially deep-frying. Fryers should be placed away from combustible materials, and careful attention should be paid when placing meats into the fryer.

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