Columbia Fire Department encourages holiday safety with Operation Red Wreath

Monday, November 28, 2011 | 3:13 p.m. CST; updated 1:36 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Firefighter Rich Harris mounts a 6-foot wreath on Nov. 29, 2011 as part of their Operation Red Wreath campaign at the Columbia Fire Station. Each holiday-related fire will be counted by changing one red light to a white light.

COLUMBIA — A wreath with 30 to 40 lights will hang in front of the downtown fire station, and the Columbia Fire Department wants to keep the lights red.

The Fire Department will mount the wreath, which has a 6-foot diameter, at the end of the Tenth Street station driveway at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The annual Operation Red Wreath will begin on Dec. 1 and continue until Jan. 2. For each holiday-related fire that occurs between those dates, one red bulb on the wreath will be replaced by a white one.

Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said the campaign started more than 10 years ago by former Chief William Markgraf. Although the program is not a national one, it replicates one from Markgraf's hometown of Joliet, Ill.

The goal is to raise awareness about fire risks, particularly during the holiday season, Sapp said. He said the Fire Department monitors holiday-related fires during the operation's 30-day period.

The number of such fires fluctuates year to year. Last year, the Fire Department counted two fires, both related to unattended cooking.

A press release sent out by the Fire Department on Monday listed holiday activities that cause fires, including:

  • Unattended cooking and incorrect use of fryers.
  • Unwatched open flames and neglected fireplace and chimney maintenance.
  • Improper disposal of smoldering materials.
  • Allowing natural trees to dry out.
  • Frayed electrical cords and too much electrical equipment plugged into a single circuit.

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