Fire Officials' Advice on Christmas Trees: "Wait As Long As You Can"

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RENO, NV - Whether it's to get a jump start on the Christmas spirit or the desire to get the best tree on the lot, some of us just can't wait to get this year's tree and haul it home.

Customers were hard to find at local lots today, but that was likely due to the weather. Most were selling trees the day after Thanksgiving, and traffic, we're told was heavy this past weekend and picks up anytime the sun is out. It seems we just can't wait to put the tree in the living room, but maybe we should.

"Typically that tree is going to last about two weeks before it gets to the point where it's too dried out to be recoverable or regenerated by any sort of water supply you might provide for it," says Acting Reno Fire Marshal Dave Cochran.

Cochran says all the standard cautions apply. Pick your tree carefully, making sure it's fresh, noting whether the needles are still supple, not ready to fall from the tree. Set up your tree away from all heat sources and keep it well watered. Still...

"The tree is dead. You've cut it down. So, after about two weeks it's going to be dried out."

And as your dead tree inevitably dries out, it becomes a highly flammable torch sitting in your home.

"I've been on Christmas tree fires," says Cochran. "Christmas trees when they catch on fire, they burn fast, they burn hot. They're very dangerous."

So, his first advice is to wait as long as you can and know that even with your best efforts you have about a two week window once you take it from the lot.

And, of course, you shouldn't let it linger in your home long after Christmas. Get it out of the house. Don't try to burn it in your fireplace. Take advantage of the recycling efforts.

The tree is an important part of Christmas celebrations. It shouldn't play a role in Christmas tragedies.