New Lenox Fire Marshal Dan Turner hasn't seen a Christmas tree go up in flames, but he knows from experience how quickly dry trees can.
"I've been in field fires with pine trees, and the dry ones just go up like, poof; real quick," he said. "It's just dry, brush material. The key is to keep those things wet."
He's not kidding; check out this U.S. Fire Administration video of a Christmas tree being destroyed in a few seconds.
To New Lenox Fire Protection District is reminding residents to say safe during the holiday season with its annual Keep the Wreath Red campaign. The district is displaying a wreath at each of its four fire stations, and all are illuminated with red bulbs until Jan. 2. If there's a fire related to holiday decorations, a red bulb is replaced with a white one.
"Safety never takes a holiday," Turner said. "We're all busy, it is a time where the heating appliances are in use. Something as simple as setting up your tree by the fireplace, even just the heat will dry out the tree."
Even though increased fire hazards, cooking and general distractions come around the holidays, the Red Wreath campaign has been very successful in New Lenox; Turner said there hasn't been a holiday decoration fire reported to the department in the three years he's been here.
Last December there were two devastating house fires that displaced New Lenox families and killed their pets. However, both homes were so destroyed that a cause couldn't be determined.
The Keep the Wreath Red campaign originated in 1954 as an idea of Paul Boecker, a former captain at the Naperville Fire Department. In the early 1980's, it was adopted by the Illinois Fire Chief's Association as a statewide initiative.
Here are some extra tips from the New Lenox Fire Protection District:
- If you want a natural tree, select a fresh tree that is deep in color and has a strong sent of pine.
- Do not rely on chemical sprays to make your tree flame resistant.
- Keep trees in holding stands and keep stands full of water.
- Keep trees away from heat sources and out of exit ways.
- Never use candles on or near a tree.
- After the holidays discard the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard. Recycle the tree, which is a great idea and it helps the environment
- Keep matches, lighters and candles out of reach from children.
- Do not wear loose fitting clothing near open flames from fire places, stoves, or candles.
- Never leave candles burning unattended.
- Keep candles away from combustibles like wrapping paper, clothing, and curtains.
- Extinguish candles prior to leaving the room or going to bed.
- Use candle holders that are sturdy and won't tip over, they should also be large enough to collect wax drippings.
- Keep candle wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch.
- Check all your illuminated decorations to ensure they are in good condition.
- Lights that are frayed or have cracked wires should be discarded and replaced with new lights which are approved by a listing agency such as Underwriters Laboratories or Factory Mutual.
- Check the information tags on your lights to determine if they are appropriate for outdoor use.
- Do not overload extension cords.
- Do not run extension cords under carpets.
- Turn your lights off when leaving the home.
You can contact the New Lenox Fire Protection District at 463-4500 with any questions.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on New Lenox Patch in November 2010.