Column: RAFD fire chief Tim Saul dreams of a white (not red) Christmas

THIS WREATH will stay in front of City Hall in Ripon through the remainder of the holiday season. Ian Stepleton photo

YOU KNOW Christmas decorations could pose a fire hazard.

... That evergreen you put in your living room.

... All those twinkle lights you stapled to the house, Clark Griswold-style.

... Those nice-smelling candles you lit for your holiday party.

In a sense, it’s like the entire community plays Russian roulette at the same time.

The question almost seems to be not if, but when, a fire will break out due to all these decorations.

But the Ripon Area Fire District hopes that, with a little diligence and a good reminder, Riponites won’t have to see red this winter.

Red lights, specifically — both on their local fire engines, and on a special wreath that’s been erected over at City Hall.

Last week tuesday, the Ripon Area Fire District began a new program called “Keep the Wreath White.”

The wreath in question is a large one placed in front of City Hall, visible in its prominent location near downtown Ripon.

According to Fire Chief Tim Saul, he put it there “in hopes to keep residents extra safe during the holiday season and to remind residents of the increased potential of home fires during the holidays.”

Each time Ripon has an incident related to holiday decorations, one of those white bulbs will be switched to red.

Ideally, they’ll stay white all season....

Saul got the idea from a previous department he worked at, he explained.

“Where I came from, probably 10 years ago there was a campaign [like this],” he said.

Past experience also taught him that holiday decorations can be as much of a Grinch as they add Christmas cheer.

“Throughout my 25-plus years, I’ve been to numerous, probably hundreds, of fires that were due to holiday decorations,” Saul said. “The biggest one factor is, people either go to bed and leave their holiday decorations on, or leave the house and leave their holiday decorations on.”...

And, on a side note, he also urged residents to take care of another amenity that gets well-used at the holidays.

“Last year, we had quite a few chimney fires,” he said. “A chimney fire has a potential to get in an attic, so clean your chimney.”

To read the entire column, see the Dec. 12, 2013 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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