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Volume 15, Issue 49 ~ December 6 - December 12, 2007

Choose a Fire-Safe Tree to Trim

Risky firs could place your home in danger

Frazier fir trees are popular for their rich piney aroma and shapely branches that angle upward. But I will never grow a Frazier fir in my Christmas tree orchard. This evergreen is the most combustible Christmas tree species on the market, and I do not want to feel guilty for having sold a Christmas tree that contributed to the loss of a home with all of its possessions.

Research conducted at Upakrik Farm in 1995 and 1996 — with the cooperation of the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Maryland Christmas Tree Association — clearly demonstrated that the Frazier fir is the most combustible on the market. Even when freshly cut and placed in water, it torched quickly when ignited under controlled conditions. When the tree was kept out of water for two weeks, it torched even faster. The State Fire Marshal’s Office of Maryland has banned its use in public buildings.

If you desire a fire-safe tree, select a Douglas fir, Scots pine or blue spruce, and buy a fresh-cut tree. If you can cut your own, all the better. As soon as you bring the tree home, cut another inch or so from the bottom of the stump, and immediately place the tree is a pail of 100-degree-water. Place the tree in a shaded area until you are ready to move it indoors. Before bringing it in, cut another inch of stump from the bottom and place the trunk in a tree stand that will hold at least a gallon of water.

Forget about adding pennies, aspirin, sugar or zinc-coated nails to the water. The best way to keep cut trees fresh is to fill the tree stand with warm water and add Floral-Life or a similar product concocted to extend the shelf life of cut flowers.

Avoid placing the Christmas tree near radiators, fireplaces or heating vents. If you have baseboard hot-water heat, cover the baseboard near the tree with a sheet of aluminum foil.

While trimming your tree, check that the lights are in good working order, and keep the tree stand full of clean water at all times.

That’s the Bay Gardener’s advice on enjoying a fire-safe Christmas.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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