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Holiday season ushers in busy period for rural fire departments like Bemidji

The Bemidji Fire Station 1 ladder truck.
Larissa Donovan
The Bemidji Fire Station 1 ladder truck.

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal reports home fires and other disasters peak during the winter months.

BEMIDJI — While many of us prepare to deck the halls for the holidays, safety officials encourage everyone to use common sense to avoid tragedies this time of year.

Bemidji Fire Chief Justin Sherwood
Bemidji Fire Department
Bemidji Fire Chief Justin Sherwood

Bemidji Fire Chief Justin Sherwood in a recent interview with KAXE said caution should be used when using extension cords for holiday lights, while cooking and baking, and while using candles.

Sherwood also recommends using some of the time spent decorating around the home to test safety equipment.

"All the cooking that we're doing, with all the decorations, while you're putting those things up, please test your smoke detectors and your carbon monoxide detectors," Sherwood said.

"This is that time of year when furnaces fire up, we start using grills and gas appliances and those types of things. These are when those tools will save a life, so let's not have a holiday tragedy."

"If you are in a hardship and you need detectors, call your Bemidji Fire Department or your local fire department; they have resources to give you these life-saving tools," he added.

December is often a busy time for fire departments, and rural fire departments like Bemidji’s are no exception.

"Historically, Bemidji Fire was responding to 2.5 emergency calls a day," said Sherwood. "It doesn't seem like a lot, right? But for our small community, it is. Now we're up to 3.55 calls per day, and there are a lot of days that are staff are running 8 to 10 emergency calls a day."

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal reports that most home fires happen during the winter months, generally peaking in January, with 39% of fire deaths occurring during October, November and December.

Larissa Donovan has been in the Bemidji area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.