Thanksgiving is now over and all the leftovers are gone. Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season in most homes. As soon as the meal is over and everyone settles in for the football game, it’s time to create the holiday to-do lists.

Many can’t wait until the turkey is gone to start decorating their homes and there were lots of light up the weekend before. Whether sorting through yards of twinkling bulbs, hanging ornaments on the tree, heading out to cut your own tree, many citizens across the United States cherish this time of year.

Unfortunately, these traditions may also increase the chance of a fire in our homes. Approximately 240 home fires occur each year because of Christmas trees and another 150 home fires occur due to holiday and other decorative lighting. There are a few things we can do to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a fire.

First, make sure your real Christmas tree is fresh. A fresh tree’s needles will bounce back when you touch the limb. If they fall off, chances are the tree is already too dry. The stump of the tree should be sticky with sap. Also make sure all other live greens are very fresh.

When you bring your tree home, make sure you water it regularly. Check the water each day. Then, make sure you don’t dry the tree out prematurely by placing it too close to a heat source like a vent or fireplace. As you unwind those yards of lights, make sure there aren’t any frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation or broken/cracked sockets.

Make it a point to check the lights each year as you take them off the tree and discard the faulty ones. If you have a doubt—out it goes. Be very careful not to link more than three light strands as is recommended by national testing organizations, and plug the end directly into a wall outlet or high quality power strip.

Over the years I’m sure you accumulate those old decorations with sentimental value and special memories. Unfortunately, they could be very dangerous and flammable. It is my best advice to use only nonflammable or flame retardant decorations or don’t use them at all.

And no matter how wonderful the tree looks in that special place in the room, never block exits with the tree. Candles are beautiful and make the house feel warm and inviting. But, candles can definitely be dangerous. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles in your decorations.

If you must use real candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be knocked over easily. Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning. The flameless candles are really life-like and you can’t beat them for safety.

Holiday fire safety does not have to be another big to-do on your growing holiday list. Just follow a few safety tips while decorating and you will be giving your family one of the greatest gifts this year—safety!

Few people realize that modern emergency medical service has only been around for the past 70 years. This is a timeline of EMS from the very beginning when mankind started to provide pre-hospital care and its progression through the years.1

1865 – America’s first ambulance service is instituted by the U.S. Army.

1869 – America’s first city ambulance service (utilizing horse drawn carriages) is instituted in New York City by Bellevue Hospital. 1870 – Prussian siege of Paris used hot air balloons to transport wounded soldiers. This was the first documented case of aeromedical transportation.

1899 – Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago began to operate an automobile ambulance which was capable of speeds up to 16 mph.

1910 – First known air ambulance aircraft was built in North Carolina and tested in Florida. The aircraft failed after flying only 400 yards and crashing.

1926 – Phoenix Fire Department begins “inhalator” calls.

1928 – Julien Stanley Wise implemented the first rescue squad (Roanoke Life Saving Crew) in the nation in Roanoke, VA.

1940’s – Prior to World War II, hospitals provided ambulance service in many large cities. With the severe manpower shortages imposed by the war effort, it became difficult for many hospitals to maintain their ambulance operations.

City governments in many cases turned ambulance service over to the police or fire department. No laws requiring minimal training for ambulance personnel and no training programs existed beyond basic first aid.

In many fire departments, assignment to ambulance duty became an unofficial form of punishment.

1951 – Helicopters began to be used for medical evacuations during the Korea war.

1956 – Dr. Elan & Dr. Safar developed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

1959 – Researchers at John’s Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD developed the first portable defibrillator as well as perfected CPR.

1960 – Martin McMahon experimented with various types of artificial respiration by paralyzing Baltimore City firefighters and seeing which method worked best.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Keith Klinger proudly announced that every engine, ladder and rescue company in his department was equipped with a resuscitator.

His department is believed to have been the first large department to adopt uniformly medical emergency responsibility.

1965 – More people died this year in auto accidents (50,000) than in 8 years of the Vietnam War. President L. Johnson signed into law the National Highway Safety Act, which started the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

1966 – The National Research Council publishes a research paper, “Accidental Death & Disability – The Neglected Disease of Modern Society.” Otherwise known as “The White Paper,” this work was the catalyst for improving the delivery of pre-hospital care to this day.

An excerpt from the report states: “Expert consultants returning from both Korea and Vietnam have publicly asserted that, if seriously wounded, their chances for survival would be better in the zone of combat than on the average city street.”

1966 – Dr. Pantridge in Belfast, Ireland, started to deliver pre-hospital coronary care using ambulances. His research showed that his program significantly improved patient survivability in out-of-hospital cardiac events. In Pittsburgh, citizens demand an ambulance service to transport minority citizens. Freedom House Enterprises took 44 unemployed 18-60 year old men and gave then 3,000 hours of medical training. The program was deemed a success.

1967 – The American Ambulance Association publishes an article that states that as many as 25,000 Americans are either crippled or left permanently disabled as a result of the efforts of untrained or poorly trained ambulance personnel.

1968 – St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City started this nation’s first mobile coronary care unit and this program at first used physicians, then paramedics. The American Telephone and Telegraph starts to reserve the digits 9-1-1 for emergency use. I’ll have more EMS history next week.

Until next week, stay safe

Chief Rindfleisch

Fire Chief article