If you haven’t yet done so, toss the tree

The Calvert Recorder - - Community Forum -

So we re­cently flipped the cal­en­dar and it’s now Jan­uary. That means the weather is largely cold and dry, and the hol­i­days have come and gone. While some folks like to keep their Christ­mas tree up un­til Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany (tra­di­tion­ally mark­ing the an­cient visit of the three wise men to Beth­le­hem), now that it’s over, we should all be pack­ing up the or­na­ments — and toss­ing out those live trees — if we haven’t yet done so.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, Christ­mas trees started an av­er­age of 170 house fires each year from 2012 to 2016 (the last year for which fig­ures are avail­able), re­sult­ing in an an­nual av­er­age of four deaths, 15 in­juries and $12 mil­lion in di­rect prop­erty dam­age. That’s be­cause as the trees dry out, they be­come a ma­jor fire haz­ard. In 2015, an overly dry Christ­mas tree sparked a fire at a man­sion in An­napo­lis that killed two adults and four of their grand­chil­dren.

In fact, the NFPA re­ports Christ­mas tree fires are more likely to be deadly than most other fires be­cause of how quickly they can ig­nite. On av­er­age, one in ev­ery 32 re­ported house fires caused by Christ­mas trees re­sults in a death, while just one in ev­ery 143 house fires with other causes is fa­tal. And more than a third of these Christ­mas tree fires start in the liv­ing room, where the tree is kept.

They may be fes­tive and fun, and the temp­ta­tion to keep them on dis­play and keep the magic of the hol­i­days go­ing as long as pos­si­ble is real. But the rec­om­mended life span of these dec­o­ra­tive pines is ac­tu­ally just two weeks, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land State Fire Mar­shal’s Of­fice. If you’ve been wa­ter­ing it ev­ery day and you’ve still got a lit­tle time left with your tree, make sure it’s lo­cated away from any heat sources. And then, sooner rather than later, get rid of it.

Calvert County res­i­dents can take their live Christ­mas trees, wreaths and gar­land to county con­ve­nience cen­ters for re­cy­cling at no charge through Jan. 31. Af­ter Jan. 31, all trees must be brought to the Ap­peal Land­fill and stan­dard yard waste fees will ap­ply.

All dec­o­ra­tions, in­clud­ing sup­port frames, lights and me­tal stands, must be re­moved from trees, wreaths and gar­lands. Trees and wreaths may not be in plas­tic bags. Trees should not be cut up. All ma­te­ri­als will be taken to the Ap­peal Land­fill to be mulched. Un­treated mulch is avail­able to county res­i­dents at no charge.

Wrap­ping pa­per, card­board boxes, hol­i­day cards and other pa­per are ac­cepted at the con­ve­nience cen­ters for re­cy­cling at no cost, any time of the year. Card­board boxes should be flat­tened and all pack­ing ma­te­ri­als, rib­bons and Sty­ro­foam must be re­moved for dis­posal, a press re­lease states.

Lo­ca­tions of the six con­ve­nience cen­ters and their hours are listed on the county web­site at www.calvertcoun­tymd.gov/re­cy­cle. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 410-326-0210.

But that’s not the only op­tion for re­cy­cling and re­pur­pos­ing the beloved fam­ily Christ­mas tree. Nancy Rad­cliffe, a mas­ter gar­dener in South­ern Mary­land, has told us that the fes­tive trees make a per­fect wildlife sanctuary or bird feeder for those who live in wooded ar­eas or with some space in their yard. Af­ter strip­ping the tree down to only what Mother Na­ture en­dowed it with, sim­ply drag it out­side and leave it as is, ei­ther flat on the ground or propped up, for birds to use for pro­tec­tion from the win­ter el­e­ments.

Fam­i­lies can even turn it into a game. Have the kids pitch in by dec­o­rat­ing the tree with fruit slices, pop­corn or peanuts to at­tract the birds, Rad­cliffe sug­gested. Turn­ing the Christ­mas tree’s re­moval from the home into a fam­ily ac­tiv­ity might be just the thing to help keep the hol­i­day spirit of fun and to­geth­er­ness burn­ing strong well into the new year.

Then once spring ar­rives and the tree be­comes more brit­tle, break it down and take what re­mains of it to one of the con­ve­nience cen­ters to be pro­cessed into mulch.

What­ever you choose to do with it, don’t leave the tree in your home or garage, or even lean­ing against the side of your home out­side, as the NFPA con­sid­ers this to be a dan­ger­ous fire haz­ard. With op­tions avail­able, don’t sit on this one. It’s time to get busy re­cy­cling, re­pur­pos­ing and, most im­por­tantly, re­mov­ing that tree.

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