Each holiday season, 945 people are killed by fire. It adds up to $1.7 billion in damage. 

That’s a staggering amount of cash, almost impossible for an ordinary citizen to comprehend, and it’s an alarming number of people killed nationally during the holiday season each year by fire.

Who knows how many of these dollars and deaths could have been prevented if only the victims had known, or heeded, some basic fire safety rules? That’s a question Santa Rosa County emergency service agencies are teaming up to bring to public attention.

Using the theme of “Keep Your Holidays Bright,” firefighters throughout Santa Rosa County have chosen to try to significantly reduce the heartbreaking statistics by promoting simple, lifesaving holiday safety tips each day of this month.

They have chosen to carry out their commitment in a unique manner. A Christmas tree decorated with electric candles has been set up in the lobby of the county administrative center on Caroline Street in plain view of the public.

Each time firefighters respond to a residential fire or a wildfire causing major damage, a candle is “extinguished” by removal, and a card containing the details of the fire put in its place. This is the sixth year this public awareness technique has been successfully displayed. In 2007, there were nine candles replaced or turned off; three in 2008; six in 2009; four in 2010; and six in 2011.

So far this season, none have been extinguished.

Each day of the year, a safety tip is dedicated. A recent tip of the day was: “With children out of school, people doing yard work, dry vegetation, high winds and low humidity, remember that wildfires can happen quickly.”

According to the United States Fire Administration, the causes of most fires occur in homes, with cooking the leading cause. Fires in December account for 41 percent, followed by heating fires at 28 percent; open flame fires at nine percent; and incendiary suspicious fires seven percent.

Holiday safety by Keeping Your Holidays Bright is the commitment of the county’s fire departments working together, including Allentown Volunteer Fire, Avalon Fire/Rescue, Bagdad Volunteer Fire, Berrydale Volunteer Fire, the City of Milton Fire, East Milton Fire and Rescue, Gulf Breeze Volunteer Fire, Harold Volunteer Fire, Holley-Navarre Fire District, and Jay Volunteer Fire, Midway Fire District, Munson Volunteer Fire and Rescue Inc., Navarre Beach Fire, Pace Fire/Rescue District, Skyline Fire and Rescue District, Florida Forest Service, Santa Rosa County Emergency Management and Lifeguard Ambulance Service.