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Keep live Christmas trees green and safe

Christmas tree safety

Picking a live-cut Christmas tree is the only way to go for some people. To keep it green and your home safe through the holidays, make sure it is well-watered and every light socket has a bulb. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Keeping your live-cut Christmas tree fresh and green and safe from fire comes down to one basic necessity.

“Keep your tree watered,” said Thomas Crane, the Marble Falls Fire Rescue fire marshal. “Most of the time, when there’s a Christmas tree that burns, it didn’t have water in the bowl and the tree had dried out.”

Mary Kay Pope of Backbone Valley Nursery concurred that water is vital in keeping trees healthy and green through the season. 

“Keep water in the reservoir, and (check) it regularly, that’s the best thing,” Pope said. “People get busy, and they have things to do … it’s easy to overlook and forget about water for the tree, but it’s the most important thing you can do for it.”

When Backbone Valley Nursery receives a load of live-cut Christmas trees, the first thing employees do is cut a slice off the bottom of each trunk. This reopens the tree’s vascular system so it can take in water. Then, they stick the trees in bowls of water and keep that water fresh. 

Pope recommends to avoid using water that’s been through a softener, if possible. 

“If the reservoir goes dry, you have about 30 minutes before the tree’s vascular system collapses, and you have to put a new cut on (the bottom of the trunk),” Pope said.

A dry tree, Crane said, is a big fire hazard. 

“The fire load for a Christmas tree is very high,” he said, meaning it’s highly combustible. If you place wrapped presents underneath it, that load goes even higher.

Along with making sure a tree is well-watered, Crane said to always check the lights on it to make sure each socket has a bulb. Even if there isn’t a bulb in one, that socket still draws electricity and is now exposed to the tree. 

“We also recommend if you can’t plug the lights directly into the wall socket, that you shouldn’t use an extension cord but use a power strip,” he said. 

Some extension cords might not be rated for strings of Christmas lights, which could overload them. A power strip with surge protection is safer.

When picking lights, Crane said, LEDs are a better choice because they don’t heat up like traditional lights do. Also, never use lighted candles on a tree or place them near it. 

“At night, you want to unplug the lights,” he added.

When stringing lights outside on landscaping and trees, Crane reiterated his advice regarding dry trees or greenery and making sure every socket has a bulb as well as the use of extension cords.

“A lot of it’s just common sense,” he said.