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Firefighters douse lights to reduce electricity bills


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POSTED: Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas lights aren't twinkling at fire stations across Oahu this holiday season.

"The chief is not being a Grinch," said fire Capt. Terry Seelig.

He said it's more of a business decision: Electric bills are soaring, and the Honolulu Fire Department is trying to save money and electricity.

"The reason we did this is we want to help reduce government cost without reducing government services," Seelig said.

This season, there were two exceptions to the no-Christmas-lights rule: the department's headquarters in Kakaako, with a subdued Christmas display, and the Kaneohe Fire Station.

Inside fire headquarters on the corner of South and Queen streets, a single strand of lights is strung across the front windows below a row of stockings, a couple of short silver trees with lights and some foil decorations.

The tree and window lights are turned off at 4:30 p.m.

Christmas Eve was dark at the headquarters last night, save for the green and red traffic lights reflected in the windows.

Fire officials agreed to take part in the Windward City Lights display in Kaneohe and lit up Station 17; the police did likewise nearby at the station in the middle of town, Seelig said.

Firefighters decorated stations last year as in previous years with large painted wooden cutouts and lights, but the lights were never left on overnight, Seelig said.

Some stations chose to continue with the wooden figures this year, Seelig said.

From July to October this year, the Fire Department used 1,648,797 kilowatt-hours, a 6 percent reduction from last year. During the same time period last year, the department used 1,750,740 kilowatt-hours.

While the amount consumed was less, rates have gone up so the electricity costs went up as well, to $488,890 this year from $368,450 last year, Seelig said.

Firefighters were also asked to make sure appliances not being used are turned off, as well as computers and printers. They were also were reminded not to use personal items at the stations, such as extra TVs or appliances.