Help us Prevent Holiday Fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), holiday decorations (excluding trees) cause about 790 home fires annually in the United States, resulting in 1 civilian fire death, 26 civilian injuries, and $13 million in direct property damages.  As you decorate in the coming weeks, keep fire prevention uppermost in your mind.

What does it mean to keep the wreath red? Where did this idea come from?  The “Keep the Wreath Red” program was established in 1954 by an Illinois Paid-On-Call Firefighter, Paul Boecker.  The program is a visual reminder for us to take safety precautions during the holiday season to make it a safe one for our families and loved ones.  “Keep the Wreath Red” was adopted by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association in 1980 to alert residents of fires caused by holiday decorations, and promote prevention through awareness.

All of the wreath’s bulbs are initially red. If a fire is directly caused by holiday decorations, one red bulb will be changed to a white one.  Keep an eye on the wreaths at the Westchester Fire Stations.  Our goal is to have no fires during the holidays.

Holiday Lights

  • Inspect your holiday lights before use and discard light strands with cracked lights, excessive kinking, frayed cords, or loose sockets. Wires should not be warm to the touch.
  • Refrain from overloading electrical outlets; no more than three mini-light strands or 50 screw-in bulbs should be linked together.
  • Use clips to hang your lights, not nails.
  • Do not run extension cords under carpets or across doorways, heaters, lawns, or high traffic areas. Ensure cords are not pinched under or behind furniture.
  • Plug cords into permanent outlets installed by a professional electrician.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • Outdoor lights are UL/FM listed for cold and wet conditions and tend to burn hotter than indoor lights. Indoor lights are cool enough to be used on the tree but are not designed for outdoor conditions. Many newer strands are made for either, but verify the type of strand before use by looking at the tag near the plug.

Christmas Trees

  • If you purchase a live Christmas tree, choose a fresh tree. The stump should be sticky and the needles should be green and difficult to pull back from the branches. Test the tree by bouncing the trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree is too dry, creating a potential fire hazard.
  • Keep your live Christmas tree watered at all times, using only water. Cutting 2″ off the trunk before setting up the tree will improve water absorption.
  • Place the tree away from fireplaces or heat vents.
  • Do not leave it up longer than two weeks.
  • Avoid the use of common fire retardants that can increase moisture loss.
  • Consider buying a live tree that can be planted in your yard after the holidays or an artificial tree that can be used for many years.
  • Dispose of the tree as soon as needles start falling off. Do not burn it in a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Ensure that all exits in your home and office are clear of trees and other holiday decorations.


  • Keep burning candles at least 12 inches from burnable materials and never leave them unattended.
  • Place candles in nonflammable, non-tip candleholders before lighting them.
  • Keep candles away from children and pets.
  • Do not use candles on trees or where medical oxygen is being used.
  • Consider battery-operated candles with the look, feel, and smell of wax candles.


  • Use nonflammable decorations placed away from lights and heat vents.
  • Do not place wrapping paper in a fireplace. A large fire can throw off dangerous sparks and cause a chimney fire.
  • Avoid smoking near decorations.

From all of us here at the MABAS 10 Member Departments – Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!