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‘Keep the Wreath Green’

Cape Coral Fire Department stresses fire safety during the holiday season

By CJ HADDAD - | Dec 3, 2020

The special green wreath at Station 4 on Santa Barbara Boulevard in Cape Coral. Photo provided

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season upon us, local firefighters are reminding residents to not let fire safety get lost in the shuffle. 

The festive season is often accompanied by colorful lights and decorations, many of which present potential fire hazards.  

“A fire is always a traumatic event, but when it happens during the holiday season it is particularly tragic,” said Cape Coral Fire Department Public Affairs Special-ist Andrea Schuch. “The Cape Coral Fire Department wants everyone to have a happy and safe holiday season.”

On Dec. 1, the CCFD launched its annual “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety campaign to raise awareness on preventable incidents involving cooking, smoking, holiday decorations, candles and more. 

“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” said Fire Chief Ryan Lamb. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”

Firefighters have placed a wreath garnered with green light bulbs. If a preventable fire occurs between Dec. 1 and Jan. 1, one of the green bulbs will change to red. 

Only four bulbs were changed to red in 2019, and CCFD hopes all will stay green in 2020. 

Firefighters have seen it all over the years, officials said, from dry Christmas trees catching fire, overloaded outlets causing damage and candles flickering into unsuspecting fabric. However, the most common causes of incidental blazes are cooking fires, Schuch said. The CCFD even responded to a few over Thanksgiving, one involving a turkey fryer. Schuch said damages were minimal and no injuries were reported. 

The CCFD has offered some safety tips to ensure good tidings and cheer throughout the holidays.


Choose holiday decorations carefully, using those only made of flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.

Keep decorations away from heat sources. Of the fires that began with decorations, nearly half occurred due to the decoration’s proximity to a heat source.

Keep decorations away from windows and doors that might be needed as a means of escape.


Keep candles at least 12 inches away from decorations or other combustible materials. Two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles.

Never leave candles unattended. Extinguish them when you leave the room.

Use sturdy candle holders that won’t tip over.


Use only lights listed by an independent testing laboratory and pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

Closely inspect all holiday lighting before use to insure all wires, bulbs and connections are in a safe condition. Discard any lights with exposed wires, broken insulation, cracked or missing bulbs or other defects.

Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not become damaged.

Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.

Christmas trees

Before purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

When choosing a live Christmas tree, look for signs of freshness by lightly pulling branches through your closed fist. Fresh trees should retain their needles during this test.

Have the tree lot operator provide a “fresh cut” by removing 1-2 inches from the base of the trunk.

Immediately place the tree in water and add water daily. Keep a close check on the dryness of the tree and remove the tree when needles easily fall off.

Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit and is at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

The Cape Coral Fire Department has provided all Christmas tree vendors in Cape Coral with tree hanger tags that are printed with these important safety tips to remind consumers what precautions to take to prevent Christmas tree fires. 


Unattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries. After Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the peak days for home cooking fires.

When frying, grilling or broiling, stay in the kitchen. Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stovetop and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time.

When simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, stay in the home and check on it frequently; use a timer as a reminder if necessary.

Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.


Ask smokers to smoke outside.

Use large, deep ashtrays and wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.

Keep matches and lighters up high, away from children.

The CCFD tells residents to ensure there is a working smoke alarm on each level of your home and practice fire escape plans with all family members and holiday guests.

“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” Schuch said. “By taking simple precautions, Cape Coral residents and visitors can stay safe, have holidays that are healthy and happy, and avoid potential fire hazards to ‘Keep the Wreath Green.'”

— Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj