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Keep the Wreath Green: Take precautions and have a fire plan

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Merrill Fire Department
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Quick action by Merrill Firefighters kept a chimney fire from spreading to a home in the Town of Scott Monday night.

Firefighters extinguished the fire in the chimney using fire extinguishers and chimney bombs and then used a chain to clean the chimney.

This fire was the third structure fire the Merrill Fire Department has responded to since Thanksgiving.

Those fires are now represented by three red bulbs on a giant wreath hanging in front of the department.

Every year fire departments will put up wreaths with green light bulbs and a goal to “Keep the Wreath Green”.

“People are more active, and we’ve seen over those decades increases in fires over that time. If we can save lives and property through prevention instead of reaction and responding after the fires occur, it’s a benefit to everybody and that’s really what the program is about,” said Merrill Fire Chief Josh Klug.

Beautifully lit Christmas trees and logs crackling fireplace are holiday staples many people look forward to each year. But the things that make the season bright, can also make it dangerous.

Klug says there are simple steps you can take to keep your family safe and prevent fires.

For people with live Christmas trees, make sure you’re giving it plenty of water so it doesn’t dry out.

Don’t overload a power strip or outlet with lights.

Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking so you can keep an eye on things.

Only burn a candle if you’re going to be in room.

And clean your chimney.

“You can have animals build nests and stuff that’s not intended to be in the chimney. If they haven’t been cleaned and have been used previously, you get a buildup of creosol in the chimney and eventually when it gets hot enough, it starts to combust on its own,” said Klug.

Of course, accidents do happen, and fires can start even in the most cautious of homes.

That’s why Klug says it’s important to practice what to do in fire. Stay low, know your exits, and when you’re out, stay out.

“Today’s fires just go so quick. We talk to people after they’ve experienced a fire and they’ll be like, ‘I can’t believe how fast that was. I heard the smoke detector go off; I went to the door. I couldn’t get out the door.’ That’s because of the material that’s burning. It burns hotter and faster making it more difficult for occupants to escape. So really take that to heart,” said Klug.

It’s also important to make sure you have working smoke detectors.