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Keep the Wreath Green: Fire safety reminders for the holiday season

Jimmy Sadowski
WAOW Television
A wreath at the Merrill fire department from a previous year of the program

In December and January, the number of housefires significantly increases.

That’s why the Merrill Fire Department is participating in a program called ‘Keep the Wreath Green’.

The goal is pretty simple.

Keep the ornaments on the wreath outside the fire department green.

Each time there’s a structure fire in their jurisdiction, the department replaces a green bulb for a red one.

This is Merrill Fire Department Chief Josh Klug.

“So far, we have three red bulbs on there, which are the three structure fires that we've had,” he said.

These three fires all had a common denominator- heating related problems.

In one house, improper ventilation led to a fire, and in another, the culprit was a chimney that needed maintenance.

Klug emphasizes that regular inspections and cleanings can go a long way in fire prevention.

He says it’s important to keep in mind safety around the holidays- so don’t leave your Christmas tree lights on unattended, or leave the room while your cinnamon spice candle burns.

“A lot of people spend time in their kitchens, making up some goodies, some dishes for the holiday. And it’s just important that anytime we're cooking, we make sure that we have those devices, the oven, the stove, those things, are attended,” reminded Klug.

If you have a real Christmas tree, it’s important to make sure it stays watered and that you don’t leave lights on when you’re not around.

“A lot of times, unfortunately, we see fires that occur in apartments or rental homes, and the occupants didn't have renter's insurance, and it really is such a cheap form of protection and overall cost to protect your valuables and the contents in there,” said Klug.

The department highly recommends renter’s insurance.

If someone is displaced by a fire, they can work with the Red Cross in both the short and long term to get back on their feet.

Here is Kathryn Halvorsen, the Executive Director of the North Central Wisconsin Red Cross branch.

“We work with clients who have gone through disasters, such as a home fire, for even weeks to months afterwards, often giving them referrals and trying to help them transition and recover. It's been extremely difficult to try to get them into housing, because of the housing crisis,” she said.

Klug emphasized the importance of preventative measures.

“No one expects to have a fire, no plans to have a fire, and they just happen so quick. So those smoke detectors, those carbon monoxide detectors are really important because in the event that it does occur in your house there really is just so little time to get out now,” he said.

Lots of the material in the average house is flammable nowadays, so where you might have had 15-18 minutes to escape a burning structure years ago, it’s down to three or four minutes now.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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