Christmas trees can become holiday hazard

December 11, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

While she thinks it is a hassle, one Christmas shopper said Sunday that watering is a priority when putting up the tree.

Finding a big tree with a good smell also is important, Kristina Erny said.

"The smell ... we want it to smell like citrus, and it needs to be full, so I can put lots of ornaments on it," Erny said after she and some family members jammed their new tree into the back of a Ford Expedition.

Making sure Christmas trees are securely tied for transport and keeping them watered are some ways to prevent the pratfalls of a National Lampoon's holiday, according to information from AAA Mid-Atlantic and the U.S. Fire Administration.

Mike Weller, fire prevention officer for the Hagerstown Fire Department, said most people seem to understand the importance of keeping their trees hydrated. Admitting when Christmas is over, and taking the trees down sometimes is a problem, he said.


A tree that is littering the floor with needles is a fire hazard, Weller said.

"That is a benchmark that you should get that tree out of your house soon," Weller said.

Jay Stouffer, co-chairman of the Maugansville Ruritan Club tree lot at Longmeadow Shopping Center, said if they are well-watered, the trees his customers buy will last until New Year's Day. Before customers leave with their trees, volunteers shake out the old needles and cut away a section of the trunks.

"If they're going to put it up right away, we take a cut out of it and tell them to put it in warm water, so that it opens up the pores," Stouffer said.

Right before they set up their trees, people with live Christmas trees should cut about 2 inches from the trunk, allowing the tree to "drink," Weller said. When it is first brought into a house, a Christmas tree can use as much as a gallon of water a day, keeping it hydrated and reducing the risk of fire, he said.

As people shop for those on their lists this year, Weller recommended detectors for smoke and carbon monoxide as perfect presents.

"You know folks are asking, 'What can I get this person? What can I get that person? That is a fail-safe gift that would save somebody's life," Weller said.

Stouffer said people have had pretty good luck with the trees on the Ruritan lot. Some people have made the stop a Christmas tradition for decades.

"We've had people come back 30 years. We had one customer in here just the other day (who has) been coming back 30 years. He said he hasn't got a bad tree in 30 years," Stouffer said.

Safety tips

· Choose trees that are green and fresh. Look for trunks that are sticky with sap.

· Point the trunk of the tree toward the vehicle's hood to transport it on top of the vehicle. Use strong rope to tighten to the vehicle.

· If the tree is protruding past the back of your vehicle, or if it is sticking out of the trunk, tie a bright, reflective flag to the end of the tree.

· Only use outdoor lights outside and indoor lights inside.

· Do not put more than three light sets on any one extension cord.

· Keep live trees well-watered.

· Lilies, poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, certain kinds of ivy, amaryllis and hibiscus all can cause pets to get sick or die. Stagnant Christmas tree water also can make pets sick.

· Turn off electrical appliances, including Christmas lights, when not home or sleeping.

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