Christmas trees line the parking lot of Allsup’s during Thanksgiving weekend in Clovis. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
The Christmas tree is a venerated and centuries-old symbol of Christianity and the holiday season. Not to mention a beacon of joy for children come Christmas day.
But it can also be a fire hazard, officials say.
The Clovis Fire Department is spending time and energy to inform those decorating for the holidays on the dangers that may exist and how to avoid them.
“Keep the tree watered,” said Capt. Karen Burns of the CFD. “A wet tree is a safe tree.”
She said a number of hazards may set the tree ablaze, things such as faulty or broken Christmas lights, space heaters and carelessly-placed candles. But the real danger is a dry tree, which she said can explode into fire.
“If they are going to have a natural tree, check your lights,” she said. “A lot of the fires come from shorts in the electrical lights.”
According to www.christmas-tree.com, which is a collection traditions about the holiday season, the Christmas tree has a 1,000-year association with Christianity that originally began in Germany.
The site tells the story of Saint Boniface, who made it his mission to convert the German people to Christianity. He chastised a group of pagans for worshiping an oak tree and cut it down. To his amazement, a young fir tree sprouted from the place the Oak had stood, an unlikely event he took as a sign of the Christian faith. However, the fir tree was not brought into the house at Christmas time until the 16th century, the site said.
Now that it is in the house, there are a number of precautions that should be taken to keep it from burning.
Residents should make sure to have a working smoke alarm, Burns said. Also, when dispensing of the tree, they should not burn it in the fireplace because the Christmas tree wood will burn at extremely high temperatures.
One area businessman has the solution to the dangers of a dried out Christmas trees: Don’t kill it before putting it in your house.
Joe Whitehead, who co-owns Evergreen Acres Tree Farm, only sells live Christmas trees. For $69 you can buy a 6-foot live pine tree in a red bucket, and after the season is over, plant it in your yard.
“These trees are a lot safer than the cut tree, cause they’re not so brittle. You’d play heck getting these to burn with a light bulb,” he said. “This way it’s living, it’s in your house and then it’s in your yard.”
He said customers have been coming to pick out their trees since August.
Bryan Guthals, co-owner of Guthals Nursery, said artificial trees in the marketplace have eroded some of the Christmas tree sales over the last five years. He sells white fir cut trees and a variety of live trees as well.
“Live tree sales are on the increase,” he said. “Most of ours are still grown in the mountains of New Mexico.”
He offers several suggestions on how to keep safe if choosing to purchase a cut tree.
“Just to make sure it’s fresh when you buy it, that it’s holding its needles and it doesn’t have a drying effect at that point,” he said.
He also said to make sure there is a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk so the tree continues to draw water.
Burns said you should water a cut tree as much as possible, as much as a jug a day or every other day.