Published on 11/29/07

Tree tips keep holidays from going up in smoke

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Matthew Chappell knows the dangers of a burning Christmas tree. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist has seen it firsthand.

With a flick of a cigarette, his outdoor Christmas tree was on fire. It was back during his college days at Virginia Tech. And while he still had a 14-foot tree inside his home, the 7-footer went up in smoke, thanks to a careless driver.

While most Georgians won't have to deal with a cigarette-sparked bonfire, following general safety tips will help make Christmas less hazardous.

Inspect your lights. "If they're frayed and you see insulation or wires, get rid of them," Chappell said.

Keep trees away from electronics. While it's common knowledge that placing a tree near a fireplace or stove is a bad idea, setting one next to the television is just as dangerous. "Don't place a tree near a TV, PlayStation, Xbox or anything that's hot and has ventilation holes in it," he said. "Needles can fall in the back of these and start a fire."

Know your needles. "The pecking order for trees that lose their needles the fastest is fir, then pine and then spruce," he said.

Avoid New Year's bonfires. If you do light your tree on fire, do it well away from structures or forest areas, and have at least one water source available.

"The biggest thing is to observe all laws and regulations of the city and county wherever you live," Chappell said. If you still want to burn your tree, he suggests cutting it up and using it piece by piece.

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.