Christmas Trees-Joy or Tragedy?

Christmas Trees-Joy or Tragedy?

The Editor’s Opinion Page

Everybody loves Christmas. It can be and usually is a time for joy. But, alas, Christmas doesn’t necessarily love everybody. For some it can—and will be—a time of tragedy. And the blame for this tragedy most often falls on the fresh evergreen Christmas trees on whose glistening beauty the festivities center.

Loaded with volatile flammables and cellulose, these are in effect Molotov cocktails, planted in living rooms. If we had our way, fresh Christmas trees and decorations would be outlawed. The older they get and the longer they remain indoors, the more dangerous they become.

They should be replaced, and they can be replaced right now, with the increasingly good-looking artificial trees that are on the market. Artificial trees that are slow burners—if they burn at all. Artificial trees that are considerably less hazardous than nature’s dried-out greenery.

But tradition dies hard. At this moment of writing, (November) carriers are already being loaded with thousands of fresh cut trees for the city markets. By the law of probabilities, some of them will go up in flames. And when they do, they become a problem for the fire department.

Actually, the problem begins as a fire prevention problem on the day the trees go on sale, and it remains a problem until they are finally disposed of. This calls for an intensive fire prevention educational program before, during and after the Christmas season. We won’t go into the details here; every good fire chief knows what he should do. But sometimes interest and enthusiasm lag and unfortunately are sparked only by a tragedy that hits home.

Not the least of the problems is getting rid of the trees once the holidays are over. People have a tendency to hold onto Christmas trees as long as possible, even unto Easter. But this tendency stems from the days when there was no central heating and the front parlor was the equivalent of a cold storage box.

Conditions are different today and those lovely green needles can dry out and become very dangerous in a few days. So it is up to the fire chief to see that his townsfolk preferably buy artificial trees, and failing this, that they get rid of natural trees quickly.

This latter course, in these days of waste disposal problem, is often not so easy.

But it must be done and there are many ways of doing it. Our Round Table in this issue discusses how it was done by fire chiefs throughout the country. And maybe next year all will follow suit.

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