‘Live’ Christmas tree safety

  • Published
  • By Greg Bullington
  • 90th Missile Wing Ground Safety superintendent
The holiday season has arrived and the 90th Missile Wing Safety office wants to share some "live" Christmas tree information.

When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, the needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent. The trunk of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

After you get it home, make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don't cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, because this will make it more difficult to stabilize the tree in the stand and it also reduces the amount of water to the tree.

Watering the tree is very important. You'll need to make sure your tree gets lots of water in the first few hours after it is in place. The tree will absorb a large amount of water, possibly a full gallon/3.7 liter. You will need to add water almost every day. Make sure you never let the water level go below the base of the tree. A well-watered tree will stay healthier and not dry out, which could create a potential fire hazard.

A well-watered tree will lose fewer needles but all fresh trees will lose some needles. Collect fallen pine needles. Use a dust pan and brush or a handheld vacuum. Do this daily, unless you want to have an enormous pile of needles to clean up when you finally move the tree. The needles are unsightly and potentially hazardous for curious pets and infants.

Taking down the Christmas tree isn't nearly as much fun as putting it up. But the longer a tree stays up, the greater a fire hazard it becomes. It's best to discard trees within one month after purchase. When Christmas is over or the tree begins to drop a significant amount of needles, properly dispose of it. Do not leave it in the house or store it in the garage. To dispose of your tree, take it to the Cheyenne Composting Facility or other locations or organizations taking trees.

Never burn Christmas trees (branches or needles) in a fireplace or wood stove. Firs and pines have lots of sap, which can explode. The needles burn like tinder, quickly and fiercely. Flames can flare up out of control and send sparks flying across a room. They can also ignite creosote, which is highly combustible oil residue found in chimneys, and could cause a fire in the chimney.

So, remember to stay safe this holiday season and follow these safety tips to prevent residential Christmas tree fires. In the end, it is all about proper risk management.

Have a happy and safe holiday season.