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Red alerts for fire safety raised in Dixon

Wreaths’ lights changed if holiday-related fire occurs

DIXON – During this time of year, houses all across Dixon have wreaths hanging out front. And the two firehouses are no different.

On Tuesday, the Dixon City and Rural fire departments, for the 20th consecutive year, hung wreaths for the Keep the Wreath Red campaign. The goal is to increase fire safety awareness, specifically with holiday-related fires.

Until Monday, Jan. 6, the wreaths at both departments will be aglow with red lights and a single red light in the middle. That is, unless there’s a holiday-related fire in either department, at which point the lights will be turned white.

As the wreath was being hung on the Dixon Rural fire house, Chief Norris Tucker Jr. said he’s a little superstitious, so the white lights are already on the wreath. He just hopes they won’t be needed.

Kitson’s Tree Farm in Dixon donated the wreath to the Dixon City Fire Department, and Nichol’s Flowers and Greenhouses in Dixon donated the wreath to Dixon Rural.

Dixon City Fire Department Chief Tim Shipman said his department runs fire safety awareness programs all year with school children and adults, because it’s a proactive approach.

“The motto is, ‘Fire prevention through education,’” he said. “We’d just as soon go out and educate the kids and people and get it done that way, instead of having to go put the fire out.”

Holiday decorations present an increased risk of fires, the chiefs said, with old extension cords and lights being used around trees that can dry out and catch fire quickly.

Shipman said the Keep the Wreath Red campaign was started by Paul Boecker, who worked as a firefighter in the Chicago suburbs. Boecker first had the idea in 1954, but it gained traction in 1971 after he became the fire chief for the Lisle-Woodridge Fire Department.

A handful of other area fire departments participate in the campaign, Shipman said, adding that it was adopted by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association in 1980.

Since 1983, when the two local departments started putting up the wreaths, both chiefs have noticed the switch to white lights happens less frequently, they said.

Asked whether he thought the Keep the Wreath Red campaign had made a difference in the Dixon area, Shipman was optimistic.

“I hope so,” he said. “I think so.”

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