Christmas trees, lighting pose hazard

By Observer editorial December 26, 2012 10:51 am

Overeating isn’t the only hazard of Christmas.  Dried-out real trees and holiday lighting can also be post-holiday fire hazards, and with winter being the leading time for house fires, people need to properly store and dispose of seasonal decorations.

Oregon leads the nation in Christmas tree farming. And, as you might expect, most of us still prefer real trees over artificial ones. We don’t know if Oregon leads the nation in Christmas tree fires. But from 2007 to 2011, Christmas trees and decorations resulted in 116 fires and more than $4.2 million in property loss.

That being said, once Christmas is over, what do you do with the tree? One answer locally is provided by La Grande Boy Scout Troop 511. The troop will be recycling Christmas trees on Dec. 29 and Jan. 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the north side of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Cost is $4 to drop off a tree. Call
541-975-2000 for tree pick-up service at $6 per tree. The trees will be used for wildlife and habitat enhancement projects at Ladd Marsh.

After the caroling dies down, after the indigestion remedies are all taken, after the friends and relatives go home, Christmas trees continue to dry out and become increasingly flammable. Trees decorated with holiday lights are especially dangerous considering their direct contact with an electrical source.

Sure, Christmas tree fires are not common. But when they happen, they have a greater chance of being fatal. Nationwide, one of every 66 home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death. That compares to an average of one death per 144 total home structure fires.

 In 2006 to 2010, holiday lights and other decorative lighting were involved in an annual average of 160 home fires, nine deaths, 13 related injuries and $9 million in direct property damage. 

So how can you can tell when the tree is drying out? Check out the needles that drop each day. When the trickle becomes a deluge, it’s time for the tree to go. 

Don’t store dried-out trees in the home or garage, or lean them up against the side of the home. Instead, people should try to find a recycling program like the one the Boy Scouts offer in La Grande. The money raised goes for a good cause, and so do the recycled Christmas trees.