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Think Safety With Fresh Cut Trees In Your Home

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WVU Extension Service

With the Christmas holiday season, many families love the tradition of selecting a free tree for their home. But that comes with some additional work and maintenance.

Eric Douglas spoke with West Virginia University Extension Service Forest Resources Specialist Dave McGill to find out what you and your family can do to safely enjoy your tree all season long.

Douglas: Where does the Christmas tree farming industry in West Virginia stand now? 

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WVU Extension Service
West Virginia University Extension Service Forest Resources Specialist Dave McGill

McGill: Over time, the number of farms has decreased, but the state of the Christmas Tree Growers Association is actually strong. There's always a great demand for these trees. And people will sell out of the trees that they have available. Even this year someone was calling about trying to get some wholesale trees. And there was just no one selling wholesale because they're holding them for their “choose and cut” operations where people select the tree they want and cut it down themselves.

That's the main thing. People are in this industry to make money, but there's a huge intrinsic value in growing Christmas trees. There's a lot of maintenance, there's a lot of thinking about these products out there that take seven, eight, sometimes nine years to produce. But when families come in with their kids and buy these trees, the kids are wide-eyed and fascinated with looking around and using a saw to cut a tree down and bring it home and put it up.

Some of these growers have been around a long time, and then they see these children grow up and then bring their children.

Douglas: Let's talk about those safety, the safety things or the safety aspects of bringing a live tree into your home. What do you need to know to enjoy the tree and keep your home safe?

McGill: So the first thing people think about with trees is fire, right? We see forests burn up all the time. We know trees burn and we know coniferous trees, these trees with resins that are so beautifully shaped, they burn well. But if you plan it right, you can guard against any kind of hazards like that.

One of the main things is don't let fire or dryness get into your tree. Start out with a fresh tree, so that's why choose and cut is so good, because you know how fresh it is. Sometimes you go there and the trees have been cut. During the active season, there's a lot of turnover, so they cut some trees and bring them in. Maybe one will sit there a couple days, but even that would be okay, because of the temperature. It's very cool, with a low loss of moisture right now. The other recommendation is always make a fresh cut on the bottom and to get some of those plugged up resin canals out of the way to get a flow of fluid of water from your stand, which you always want to keep filled with water up to keep it moist.

Douglas: Do you need to add anything to the water? Is it just water?

McGill: There are products you can get to add to the water. Some people swear by those. I have done both. If you keep it watered, and then keep really flammable materials away from it. You don't want to put a whole bunch of paper decorations around the tree where it might make a ladder from some kind of heat source into the tree.

At the beginning, it really sucks up water and then as it gets older, it kind of sucks less water. By about that time, you probably want to get it out on the street.

Douglas: What's the ideal time if you're planning to bring in a fresh tree? 

McGill: A lot depends on one of the things we didn't talk about. Different species have different abilities to retain their needles -- six weeks to seven weeks. You'll want to have it outside because even though it's kind of still okay, you know, the leaves will start to fall off. And you don't want those all around the house.

Douglas: I guess the short version of that is any of (the trees) are good from now through the first of the year. 

McGill: Yeah, a couple of weeks into the year, it'd be fine.

For more information on fresh Christmas trees, visit the West Virginia Division of Forestry’s website for their Christmas Tree Book.

News Director, edouglas@wvpublic.org, 304-556-4946, @AppalachiaEric

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