Lebanon Fire Commissioner Duane Trautman is serious about preventing fires year-round, but the holidays, when indoor activities increase, take on a special significance for him.

This will be the seventh year for the city fire department’s Keep the Wreath Red effort, which is marked by large wreaths, easily visible to passersby, in front of the city’s five fire stations and some local businesses.

Each wreath is covered with red lights, and each preventable holiday fire turns one bulb white.    

The promotion started at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve and will end at the same time on New Year’s Day.

In the six previous years the wreaths have been up, the city has never achieved a perfectly fire-free holiday season, but Trautman thinks it’s a worthwhile target. 

“I think eight was the highest year” since the campaign’s start, he said. “We have about 130 fires a year, roughly 10 a month. It is what it is.”

Trautman noted that there have been two fire-related fatalities in 2021.

Cooking and electrical fires are his biggest worries in winter. “Most fires are caused by a lack of maintenance or a failure to clean,” he said. 

Holiday lighting requires special attention, Trautman said.

“Most electrical fires start at a connection or a damaged conductor,” he explained. “People don’t tend to their extension cords.”

Read More: Firefighting isn’t just what Duane Trautman does – it’s who he is

In addition to the city’s five fire stations, Trautman said that the Lebanon Farmers’ Market and Mel’s Diner are displaying wreaths this year.

The artificial wreaths were donated by local business owners Joya and Tom Morrissey.

Trautman was teased about his color selection by a local broadcast media personality at a recent city council meeting. Since red is often associated with flames, shouldn’t the colors be flipped, and the campaign called “Keep the Wreath White?”

That’s what some other fire departments throughout the country are doing, but Trautman jokingly disagreed.

“I don’t think you’d see a red light in a field of white.”

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Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...