People driving by many of the fire departments in central Wisconsin will notice brightly lit wreaths hanging on the stations beginning Thursday.
Many departments in central Wisconsin participate in annual “Keep the Wreath Green” programs. Departments hang wreaths filled with green Christmas lights on fire stations. For every structure fire in the departments’ coverage area beginning on Thanksgiving and going through New Year’s Eve, firefighters replace one green bulb on the wreath with a red bulb. They hope residents will help them “Keep the Wreath Green” by practicing fire safety during the holidays.
The Wausau Fire Department has used a wreath to track fires in the city since 2000. Last year, the department finished the year with five red bulbs on its wreath, representing five structure fires, Wausau Firefighter-Paramedic Quinn Ambrosius said.
People ask about the red bulbs, especially when several red bulbs appear in a short time, Ambrosius said.
“It brings awareness with the whole season change,” Ambrosius said. “Fires, unfortunately, do happen more frequently this time of year.”
The Stevens Point Fire Department began its Keep the Wreath Green Program more than 20 years ago, Stevens Point Fire Capt. Paul Mattlin said. Since that time, the program has grown to encompass all of Portage County, Mattlin said.
Firefighters promote the program in area schools and business, Mattlin said. The Keep the Wreath Green Program in Portage County ends with Christmas and not New Year’s Eve, Mattlin said. The program is an important tool to increase awareness of fire danger during the holidays, he said.
“Although house fires and structure fires have been going down, we like to bring awareness up, especially at Christmas time,” Mattlin said. “Christmas is when we have trees and people tend to burn candles and stuff like that, which can get away from them and start fires.”
Wood County fire departments began the Wood County Keep the Wreath Green Program in 1994, Pittsville Fire Chief Jerry Minor said. Last year, Wood County ended the year with eight red bulbs. Since the program began, there have been 196 red bulbs put on the wreaths, representing 196 structure fires during the holidays through the years.
The Keep the Wreath Green Program is a prevention method, Minor said. During holidays, the number of fires go up, he said. People are cooking more and getting distracted, he said.
“We all have the same goal, to make more people aware of holiday fires,” Minor said.