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Firefighters: Dry Christmas trees can ignite quickly

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Dec 27 2012 11:19:57 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 27 2012 11:32:41 PM CST

An old dry Christmas tree can be like a ticking time bomb.

BLACKFOOT, Idaho -

Have you taken down your Christmas tree yet?

You might want to.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, firefighters respond each year to an estimated 230 home fires caused by Christmas trees.

A drier, older tree is much more likely to start on fire. 

On Thursday night, the Blackfoot Fire Department demonstrated just how fast a tree can catch on fire.

“It doesn't take much to get one of those pine needles to start burning,” said Blackfoot fireman Tony Catt. 

Catt said an old, drying Christmas tree can be like a ticking timebomb. 

“Very, very hazardous,” he said. “You get Christmas lights that continually heat the tree. Typically the trees are cut well before Christmas, so the drying process has already started.”

When a dry, pile of pine needles meets an open flame, it can go from bad to catastrophic in a matter of seconds. 

“They do spread rather rapidly,” said Catt. 

The intensity of a Christmas tree blaze was exemplified by a training exercise Catt and other Blackfoot firefighters staged on Thursday.

A room of furniture and a drying Christmas tree set the stage for a typical tree fire, one that ignited and overtook the small room training in just moments. 

“Lot of heat, lot of smoke, lot of fire,” said Catt. 

Catt said despite the incredible force of a Christmas tree fueled fire, they are easily preventable. 

The National Fire Prevention Association says 31-percent of Christmas tree fires start because of electrical problems. 

A heat source is too close to 18-percent of trees that catch on fire. 

14-percent of tree fires are caused by decorative lights. 

“It's time to get them out of the house,” said Catt. 

So, where to take those old Christmas trees? 

Due to garbage handling procedures, discarded Christmas trees cannot be put in with regular trash.

You can find a link to Christmas tree disposal sites in the “Related Content” section on this story.

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